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Netanyahu’s ex-bureau chief expected to add testimony to Case 4000

US-born Ari Harow, already a state’s witness for Cases 1000 and 2000, reportedly set to blow the whistle on PM’s relationship with Bezeq’s Shaul Elovitch

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office flanked by then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mendelblit (L) and then-chief of staff Ari Harow (behind), March 9, 2014. (Danny Meron/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office flanked by then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mendelblit (L) and then-chief of staff Ari Harow (behind), March 9, 2014. (Danny Meron/Pool/Flash90)

A central witness in two of the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of his former highly trusted aides, is now expected to give evidence in a third.

Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s chief of staff for a year from mid-2014, last year turned state’s witness and agreed to provide information about so-called Cases 1000 and 2000 in return for a lighter punishment for separate charges against him relating to an alleged conflict of interest over a business he held.

The US-born Harow — who during part of his year with Netanyahu also served as temporary head of the prime minister’s bureau — has already given police information on the latest investigation, Case 4000, and police and state prosecutors are considering summoning him to give complete testimony, the Globes financial newspaper reported Monday.

Case 4000 involves suspicions that the controlling shareholder of the telecommunications giant Bezeq, Shaul Elovitch, ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant positive coverage to Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations benefiting Elovitch.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for extension of his remand in Case 4000, February 22, 2018. (Flash90)

According to Globes, the information Harow has already given to police relates to the relationship between Netanyahu and Elovitch.

On Sunday, a source familiar with the various investigations told The Times of Israel that it was “likely” investigators would summon the prime minister for questioning on Case 4000 this Friday, Purim in Jerusalem, “possibly” even under caution, which would mean that they were treating him as a suspect.

The source also said that the prime minister could be interrogated as a criminal suspect in Case 3000.

That case involves suspected corruption in the purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. It has focused on suspicions that state officials were bribed to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

An Israeli navy Dolphin-class submarine (photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
An Israeli Navy Dolphin-class submarine. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Neither the Israel Police or the Prime Minister’s Office would confirm that an interrogation on cases 3000 and 4000 had been scheduled for Friday or that Netanyahu would face questioning in either case.

The Case 4000 investigation has gathered steam in the past week, following the arrest of a number of high-profile aides to Netanyahu and executives at Bezeq.

Shlomo Filber, the suspended director-general of the Communications Ministry and a longtime Netanyahu confidant, signed a deal on Tuesday to turn state’s witness and possibly incriminate the prime minister in the affair. Filber had his remand extended on Wednesday by 15 days, and is to stay at a facility in an undisclosed location for the duration of that time, while police continue to question him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his then-chief of staff Ari Harow (left)arrive at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The evidence Harow gave in Cases 1000 and 2000 as state’s witness is believed to have directly led to the police recommendation that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in both.

The insider-turned-state’s witness appears to have been involved in and given police key information about at least four of the five bribery schemes that police say Netanyahu plotted in Case 1000.

In that case, the prime minister 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.

Producer Arnon Milchan accepts the Film Tribute Award at the 26th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street, November 28, 2016, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Harow was also responsible for police obtaining the Case 2000 recording of Netanyahu negotiating an allegedly illicit quid pro quo deal with 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.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in all the cases being investigated by police.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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