Netanyahu confidant told police PM pressured him to push bribery deal — report
Case 4000

Netanyahu confidant told police PM pressured him to push bribery deal — report

Ex-official Shlomo Filber said to have testified that he was instructed to favor Bezeq in regulatory decisions; Likud minister slams police over reports he implicated premier

Shlomo Filber, director of the Communication Ministry, speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shlomo Filber, director of the Communication Ministry, speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A former confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who turned state witness reportedly provided key testimony in the Case 4000 corruption investigation, telling investigators that the premier had instructed him to benefit the Bezeq telecommunications company and its owner, Shaul Elovitch.

Shlomo Filber, the former Communications Ministry director general, is one of two suspects who signed plea deals to help police and testify against Netanyahu in the corruption case; the other is former media adviser to the Netanyahu family Nir Hefetz.

On Sunday, police published their conclusion that there was enough evidence to bring Netanyahu to trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, and fraudulently accepting benefits in the co-called Bezeq-Walla probe.

Investigators concluded that the prime minister advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq — despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials — in exchange for positive press coverage of him from Elovitch’s Walla news site. At the time, the prime minister was also serving as acting communications minister.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

During the negotiations between Filber and police on whether he would become a state witness, Netanyahu’s former right hand man told investigators that when he was appointed director general, the prime minster told him in a closed meeting to take steps benefiting Bezeq and Elovitch, Channel 10 news reported on Monday night, without citing a source.

The testimony that Netanyahu pressured Filber into pushing the alleged bribery deal formed a key part of the evidence collected by police against the prime minister, the report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on November 25, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu’s lawyers denied the report, saying the allegation was “contradicted by statements Filber himself tweeted and said when he was Communications Ministry director general.”

“Since the case has nothing, there are attempts to create the false impression that there are various pieces of evidence or documents that weren’t even presented to the prime minister in his interrogations,” they added. “It is nothing but hot air.”

Also on Monday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who Netanyahu replaced as communications minister to allegedly help Bezeq, slammed police over reports that they had considered his testimony as central to the case against the prime minister.

Denying that he had implicated his Likud party leader during his questioning over the Bezeq case, Erdan told Army Radio that “when I was communications minister, the prime minister never tried to influence me and change my opinion — and that is what I testified. Police are to blame for the reports.”

Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan attends an Internal Affairs committee in the Knesset on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Case 4000 was the third case in which police have recommended bribery charges against the prime minister. They also recommended that his wife, Sara, stand trial in the case, along with the owner of the Bezeq telecom company, his wife, and others.

The recommendations now go to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s Office, where they will first be reviewed by the state prosecutor before going to the attorney general.

Mandelblit, who will make the final decision on whether to indict the prime minister, intends to examine all three cases at the same time, which will be possible only after he receives the state attorney’s recommendations based on the final police reports. That process makes late 2019 the likely timing for any final word on whether Netanyahu will face trial.

Earlier this year, police recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other corruption cases, designated 1000 and 2000. Netanyahu has contended that law enforcement officials were being pressured to pursue criminal investigations against him, alleging that it amounted to a “witch hunt.” He denies any wrongdoing.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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