Ex-Netanyahu aide will testify against 2 Likud ministers — report
Nir Hefetz, who became a state’s witness earlier this week, reportedly tells investigators he has incriminating information on senior officials in the ruling party
Nir Hefetz, the former media adviser to the Netanyahu family who became a state’s witness earlier this week against the prime minister, has reportedly told investigators he has potentially incriminating evidence against four senior Likud officials, including two sitting ministers.
According to a report by the Hebrew-language Ynet news website early Thursday, Hefetz provided police with information on backdoor deals conducted by ministers in the governing party that included an alleged conflict of interest and official misconduct.
The deals related to regulation in the healthcare system, real estate, and “an explosive issue related to the environment that is still at the heart of the public agenda,” the report said, without elaborating.
Investigators were given the go-ahead to gather a full account from Hefetz on the ministers and other Likud officials’ alleged misdeeds, which will be handed over to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for review.
The focus of Hefetz’s testimony, for the time being, was still on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with investigators keen on extracting information on the prime minister before pursuing the allegations against the other Likud officials, the report said.
The report did not name the Likud ministers or officials that Hefetz was referring to.
Earlier this week, Hefetz became the third former close aide to the prime minister to agree to cooperate with police.
As part of the state’s witness agreement he signed, Hefetz, suspected of bribery in the case, was told that he would not serve prison time or pay a fine for his actions.
He has promised to provide police with incriminating text messages and recordings of Netanyahu and his wife in several criminal cases, including the Bezeq probe, known as Case 4000, and the so-called Case 1000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu received gifts from businessmen in exchange for favors.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu took to Facebook to lash out against investigators, accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to bring him down that includes encouraging false testimony and illegally pressuring witnesses.
Taking aim at the practice of using state’s witnesses — suspects involved in a case who agree to give testimony implicating others of potentially more serious crimes in return for lighter punishment — Netanyahu said that innocent people are put under “intense pressure and told to lie” about false allegations.
“They take people whom they accuse of having committed some crime. They put them under custody, put them through horrors, and say to them, ‘Your life is over. Your family’s life is over. We will take nearly every thing from you, your freedom too. You want to be saved from all this? There is one way — to disgrace Netanyahu,'” the prime minister said.
“It doesn’t matter if you tell delusional lies, the main thing is that you disgrace Netanyahu,” he continued. Netanyahu, however, said the apparent need for a state’s witness proved that he was in fact innocent.
“When there is something real, you don’t need state’s witnesses, and when there is nothing, a thousand state’s witnesses won’t help. This obsessive search for a state’s witness and another state’s witness and another states witness is the best proof of all that there is nothing,” he charged.
His comments were swiftly condemned by opposition leaders.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich defended judicial officials’ deals with former aides to Netanyahu, saying state’s witnesses were more valuable for fighting corruption.
“I will repeat what the state prosecutor said — ‘State’s witnesses are one of the most important tools for preventing crime organizations and public corruption,'” Alsheich said, quoting State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. “They tell the full story, a stronger, stable and open testimony, of course backed up by other proof, greatly strengthens the case.”
Alsheich, speaking at Sapir College’s Sderot Conference for Society, said compromises sometimes needed to be made to fight graft.
“Our goal is to reduce corruption,” he said. “Not to show that we succeed in convicting someone; to reduce corruption.”
Hefetz joins Shlomo Filber, the former director-general of the Communications Ministry and a longtime Netanyahu confidant, who also signed a deal last month to turn state’s witness and possibly incriminate the prime minister in the affair.
The so-called Case 4000 investigation involves suspicions that Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant fawning coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him financially.
Officials told Hadashot on Friday that suspicions against Netanyahu in the Case 4000 investigation are more serious than the accusations in two earlier cases, 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
Elovitch is suspected of giving and receiving bribes and illicit favors worth “up to a billion shekels” — more than a quarter of a billion US dollars — prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh of the Israel Securities Authority said last week during a hearing. Netanyahu and Elovitch have dismissed the allegation.
Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s chief of staff for a year from mid-2014, last year turned state’s witness and agreed to provide information about those two cases in return for a lighter punishment for separate charges against him relating to an alleged conflict of interest over a business he held.