Netanyahu’s interrogation in Bezeq probe postponed

PM said to be too unwell to face police investigators in affair; session rescheduled for the end of the week

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest round of police interrogation, initially scheduled for Monday, has been pushed off, police said Sunday. The postponement was due to Netanyahu’s strep throat, Hebrew media reported.

Netanyahu will be interrogated regarding alleged corruption connected to the Bezeq phone company. Reportedly, the interrogation will take place this weekend, and his wife, Sara, will be questioned at the same time in a different location.

Netanyahu’s son Yair is also expected to be questioned in the probe for the first time, reports said.

It will be Netanyahu’s first interrogation since a former adviser turned state’s witness in the high-profile case.

The prime minister and his wife were questioned earlier this month in the affair, known as Case 4000, which involves suspicions he advanced policies benefiting Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Days later, Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, turned state’s witness in the investigation. He was the third Netanyahu confidant to do so in cases involving the premier, joining suspended Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber and former chief of staff Ari Harrow.

Police are seeking to obtain the Netanyahus’ version of events, after having gathered detailed testimony from Hefetz.

Hadashot TV news reported that, as was the case in their first interrogation, the prime minister and his wife will be questioned concurrently in separate locations, with Hefetz and Filber on hand as well. Elovitch and his wife, Iris, will also be questioned at the same time, the report said.

Earlier this month, TV reports said that Hefetz is set to testify on two recent security incidents in which, pressured by his wife and son, Netanyahu made decisions that contradicted the positions of his professional advisers, including the heads of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet internal security service.

In addition to Case 4000, Netanyahu is suspected of wrongdoing in so-called cases 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors — amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of lavish goods from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer — in return for certain benefits.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper 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 not been named as a suspect in a fourth investigation involving his close associates, Case 3000, but there have been reports that police are considering questioning him under caution about the case.

Case 3000 involves suspected corruption in the multi-billion-shekel purchase of submarines and other naval vessels and from a German shipbuilder. The investigation has focused on suspicions that officials were bribed to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

Netanyahu and his family have denied wrongdoing in all of the cases.

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