Media groups embroiled in Netanyahu graft cases won’t be charged — report

Attorney general has decided not to indict Yedioth Ahronoth, Walla and Bezeq, meaning PM’s trial won’t face delay; premier’s associates decry ‘absurd’ decision

A man walks out from a building of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. January 25, 2011. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A man walks out from a building of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. January 25, 2011. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has reportedly decided not to lodge criminal charges against several media corporations implicated in the corruption cases in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others have been indicted.

The decision — reported in a Sunday unsourced report by the Globes business newspaper — means the premier’s trial will not face delays.

Although the owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon Mozes, and the owner of the Walla news site and the Bezeq telecommunications group, Shaul Elovitch, are personally charged with bribery, and even though the companies allegedly profited from the supposed bribery deals, charges will not be filed against Yedioth, Walla and Bezeq.

In Case 2000, one of the three criminal cases against Netanyahu, the prime minister is accused of attempting to reach an agreement on positive news coverage with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Mozes in return for pushing legislation to hobble rival newspaper Israel Hayom.

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

Left: Publisher and owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Arnon ‘Noni’ Mozes arrives for questioning at the Lahav 433 investigation unit in Lod on January 15, 2017. (Koko/Flash90) Right: Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

The Globes report said there have been fierce disagreements on the matter within the state prosecution, with some officials arguing that the decision not to indict the corporations goes against its enforcement policy. However, Mandelblit reportedly believes that adding the firms to the list of defendants would diminish the roles played in the cases by Mozes and Elovitch and needlessly delay the entire legal process by many months.

A statement quoting “associates” of Netanyahu said the decision “proves there is no basis for the absurd bribery charge against Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

After announcing the indictment of Mozes and Elovitch in late 2019, Attorney General Mandelblit refrained from adding their corporations to the indictment, and in January of this year said that “the possibility of prosecuting these corporations  in the cases in question is still being considered by the relevant parties, and no decision has yet been made on the matter.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during an event at Bar Ilan University, March 4, 2020. (FLASH90)

Netanyahu has claimed he is the victim of an “attempted coup” — involving the left-wing opposition, media, police and state prosecutors — and has called the allegations against him baseless.

Netanyahu’s trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust opened in May in the Jerusalem District Court.

In addition to Case 2000 and 4000, the prime minister is also accused of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy friends in what is known as Case 1000.

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