Netanyahu confidant said poised to sign deal to turn state’s witness

Netanyahu confidant said poised to sign deal to turn state’s witness

PM releases video rejecting ‘baseless’ claims, as TV reports say Communications Ministry director Shlomo Filber will ink deal with police in coming hours

Shlomo Filber, director-general of the Communications Ministry, arrives for extension of his remand in Case 4000 at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Letzion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)
Shlomo Filber, director-general of the Communications Ministry, arrives for extension of his remand in Case 4000 at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Letzion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

A longtime confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau is expected to sign a deal to turn state’s witness in the coming hours in the corruption investigation known as Case 4000, Hadashot TV news reported Tuesday evening, as the Israeli leader released a new video denying the “simply baseless” allegations against him.

Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo 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.

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. He 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 that his testimony would mark a turning point in the investigation, and could lead to further dramatic developments.

The report 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 already,” 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.”

“They [the police] are creating new cases every two hours,” the prime minister protested, as new allegations against his confidants surfaced. “They bring associates, interrogate them, every associate is questioned, and immediately there is a flood of misleading leaks.”

The prime minister 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.

Former prime minister’s spokesman Nir Hefetz at the Herzliya Magistrate’s Court for a libel suit against him and other associates of the prime minister, on December 26, 2017. (Flash90)

“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.

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.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on the third day of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) held at the Bayerischer Hof hotel, in Munich, southern Germany, on February 18, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas KIENZLE)

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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