Netanyahus set to be questioned in Bezeq graft probe on Monday

Upcoming grilling of PM and wife said to be planned alongside interrogation of son Yair

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend the opening ceremony of the inauguration of the new emergency ward at the Barzilay hospital, in Ashkelon, Israel on February 20, 2018. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend the opening ceremony of the inauguration of the new emergency ward at the Barzilay hospital, in Ashkelon, Israel on February 20, 2018. (Flash90)

Police will question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu next Monday in the Bezeq graft probe, for the first time since a former adviser turned state’s witness in the high-profile corruption investigation, legal sources familiar with the case told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

The prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, may also interrogated again at the same time, Hadashot news reported.

Police would not confirm or deny the expected interrogation date.

The three were expected to be questioned earlier this week but the interrogation was reportedly postponed due to Netanyahu being unwell.

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

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former spokesman Nir Hefetz (foreground) and Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch attend a remand hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)

Police are said to be seeking the Netanyahus’ version of events after having gathered testimony from Hefetz.

As was the case earlier this month, the prime minister and his wife are expected to be questioned in separate locations, with Hefetz and Filber simultaneously also facing questioning. Elovitch and his wife Iris will also be questioned at the same time, the source said.

It would be the first time Yair Netanyahu is questioned.

Earlier this month, Israeli television reported 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.

A Hadashot news report said Hefetz told associates that Yair Netanyahu had dramatic influence over Netanyahu, who, “inspired and influenced by his son Yair, showed national irresponsibility and made decisions that harmed Israel’s national interests and security.”

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is seen in Tel Aviv on November 26, 2017. (Flash90)

Netanyahu said in a statement in response that “the comments attributed to Hefetz are nonsense” and “baseless,” and claimed that Hefetz had been “entirely cut off” from intelligence and defense information “and from decision-making in those matters.”

In addition to Case 4000, Netanyahu is also 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 cigars and champagne 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 another investigation, 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 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 from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

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

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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