A former top telecommunications official and the prime minister’s former personal lawyer may both testify against Benjamin Netanyahu in a bribery case he is facing.
Yifat Ben Hai Segev, who served as head of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, will serve as the main prosecution witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is accused of giving friend and controlling Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elovitz hundreds of millions of shekels in regulatory benefits, according to Channel 13 news.
The case is one of three in which Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced charges last week, though they are still subject to a hearing. Netanyahu is accused of breach and trust in all three, but faces more serious bribery charges in the Bezeq case.
Netanyahu’s former personal lawyer David Shimron will also turn state’s witness and cooperate with investigators in the case, according to the Kan public broadcaster Saturday.
In the case Netanyahu, who also served as communications minister at the time, is accused of pushing for approval of a merger between Bezeq, the country’s largest telecom firm, and the Yes satellite provider. In exchange is he is suspected of receiving positive media coverage from the Walla news site, also owned by Elovitch.
According to Kan, Netanyahu hid his personal connection to Elovitch and any deals he had with him from Shimron, who then wrote a letter urging that Netanyahu be allowed to deal with the Bezeq-Yes merger.
Ben Hai Segev, whose council would have needed to sign off on the Bezeq-Yes deal, told investigators that Netanyahu’s former bureau chief, David Sharan, as well as other close associates of the prime minister, pressured her into fast-tracking the Bezeq-Yes merger, according to Channel 13 news.
The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council is part of the Communications Ministry.
According to television reports Friday by Channel 13 and the Kan public broadcaster, Sharan is expected to serve as a key witness in the latter case if it goes to trial.
The reports said Sharan told investigators he was instructed by Netanyahu to advance a merger between Bezeq and the Yes satellite TV provider that prosecutors say Elovitch benefitted from financially.
Netanyahu told Channel 13 Friday that he had never instructed Sharan to act on his behalf in dealings with Elovitch.
Sharan and Shimron are both accused in a separate investigation known as Case 3000, in which they have been accused of corruption relating to the state’s purchase of military naval vessels from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu is not a suspect in that case.
Shimron, who is the prime minister’s cousin, is also expected to cooperate with investigators in Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is accused of breach of trust for allegedly trying to broker a quid-pro-quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes.
Shimron advised Netanyahu at the time that he could not directly tie what he was asking of Mozes to any benefits he would receive in return, according to Kan.
Netanyahu and Mozes are suspected of negotiating an ultimately unsuccessful deal to hobble a rival newspaper in exchange for positive media coverage in Yedioth.
Mozes and Elovitch will also face bribery charges.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and claims the investigations are part of efforts by the media and Israeli left to remove him from power, with the support of a dishonest police investigating team, overseen by a “weak” attorney general.