AG said to order further testimony in key Netanyahu graft probe
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AG said to order further testimony in key Netanyahu graft probe

Senior figures at Walla news site give supplementary evidence in corruption case, according to TV report; measure not expected to delay decision on indictment

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a conference of Hadashot News in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a conference of Hadashot News in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered investigators to collect additional testimony from witnesses in a corruption case involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hadashot TV news reported Thursday.

The investigation, known as Case 4000, involves suspicions Netanyahu advanced regulation benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from the telecom firm’s Walla news site. Police have recommended both men be charged in the case.

According to Hadashot, a number of Walla employees have been summoned to provide further testimony, including senior figures at the news site and others who haven’t previously given testimony, to supplement the evidence already gathered.

Citing unnamed officials close to the investigation, the report said the additional testimony is not expected to delay Mandelblit’s announcement on whether he intends to indict Netanyahu.

The prime minister, who has denied any wrongdoing, has called on Mandelblit not to announce whether he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, prior to the April 9 elections, since the hearing process could not be wrapped up before the vote. Netanyahu has vowed to continue leading his Likud party in the elections even if he is summoned for a hearing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the funeral of former defense and foreign minister Moshe Arens at Savyon Cemeter, on January 8, 2019. (Flash90)

Police have also recommended Netanyahu be charged in two other criminal investigations.

In a live statement on prime time television Monday evening, Netanyahu demanded that police allow him to confront his former aides and colleagues who have reportedly provided incriminating evidence in the three graft cases in which he is a suspect.

On Wednesday, Hadashot news reported a source close to the investigation as claiming the prime minister had already missed an earlier opportunity to confront those testifying against him, a claim attorneys for Netanyahu then rejected saying it was an attempt to pass the blame onto their client.

Aside from Case 4000, Netanyahu is also suspected of receiving bribes in the form of gifts from wealthy associates, and in another case is suspected of a potential quid pro quo deal for regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.

Media reports have indicated that Mandelblit, the final authority on whether state prosecutors will ultimately press charges, seeks to announce his decision on a possible indictment, pending a hearing, in February.

Netanyahu has dismissed the corruption allegations as a witch hunt and has pushed for Mandelblit to hold back on releasing a decision to indict until after the elections, saying it could unfairly influence the elections without his side of the story being heard.

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