Netanyahu confidant inks deal to become state’s witness in Case 4000
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Netanyahu confidant inks deal to become state’s witness in Case 4000

Media reports claim Shlomo Filber is expected to incriminate PM in probe, involving benefits for telecommunications company Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage on news website

Shlomo Filber, director general of the Communications Ministry, during a court hearing in the Supreme Court regarding the closing of the Israel Broadcasting Authorities. May 15, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Shlomo Filber, director general of the Communications Ministry, during a court hearing in the Supreme Court regarding the closing of the Israel Broadcasting Authorities. May 15, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A longtime associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal Tuesday night to turn state’s witness in a quickly ballooning corruption investigation involving the premier.

Hebrew media reported that Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber is expected to incriminate Netanyahu, testifying that he was instructed by the premier to provide regulatory benefits to telephone company Bezeq.

Filber is a suspect in Case 4000, which involves suspicions Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch gave Netanyahu and his family positive coverage at his Walla news site in exchange for the advancement of policies benefiting the telecommunications giant.

In exchange for his testimony, Filber reportedly demanded not to receive an active prison sentence, a provision police approved.

Last year, it was announced that Filber was suspected of illicitly allowing Bezeq to buy shares of the Yes satellite company. Filber was appointed by Netanyahu in 2015, after the prime minister installed himself as communications minister. Netanyahu later handed over the portfolio to Likud Minister Ayoub Kara.

At the time, Filber, a long-time party loyalist, told Hadashot that he would never become a state witness against the prime minister.

Israeli businessman Shaul Elovitch arrives for extension of his remand in case 4000 at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

The news station reported Tuesday that his testimony would mark a turning point in the investigation, and could lead to further dramatic developments.

Hadashot noted that Filber did not stand to gain personally by any of the crimes of which he is suspected.

Also Tuesday night, Netanyahu released a video on his Facebook page in which he firmly denied any wrongdoing.

“They are bringing two false, lying claims, as part of the witch hunt against me and against my family which has been going on for years,” the prime minister said in the video.

“All the decisions regarding Bezeq were made by professional committees, by professionals, under close legal supervision,” he said. “The claim that I acted in favor of Bezeq at the expense of practical considerations is simply baseless.”

Police, he said, “are creating new cases every two hours. They bring associates, interrogate them, every associate is questioned, and immediately there is a flood of misleading leaks.”

Nir Hefetz, longtime aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Netanyahu family, arrives for extension of his remand in case 4000 at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

Netanyahu also responded to reports of an alleged 2015 offer by a former spokesperson for the Netanyahu family, Nir Hefetz, to appoint a judge as attorney general if she agreed to halt an investigation into the prime minister’s wife Sara.

“I never asked Nir Hefetz about this, he never spoke to me about it, and you know what? I cannot believe he raised this possibility with anyone,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the Muni World conference in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Netanyahu is not currently suspected of dispatching Hefetz to extend the offer to the judge, Hadashot TV reported.

Hefetz and Filber have been in custody since Sunday.

Retired Judge Hila Gerstel (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in two other cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

The prime minister has also been linked indirectly to Case 3000, a large investigation into suspected corruption surrounding a multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder. While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, close associates of his, including two personal aides, have been arrested or questioned.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

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