Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son is suspected of receiving bribes in the so-called Bezeq graft probe, an Israeli television report said Thursday, hours after police said the premier’s wife was suspected of the same offense.
The investigation, known as Case 4000, involves suspicions Netanyahu advanced regulation benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the telecommunication giant’s largest shareholder, in exchange for positive coverage from the Bezeq-owned Walla news site.
According to Hadashot TV news, Yair Netanyahu and his mother Sara acted on the prime minister’s behalf to coordinate coverage at Walla with Elovitch’s wife Iris and Ilan Yeshua, the CEO of the news site.
In light of their alleged involvement, the report said the two could be indicted for bribery even though they are not public officials.
Both Sara and Yair Netanyahu were questioned in the case in March.
The Netanyahu family issued a statement dismissing Thursday’s report.
“We also found a positive article about Kaya the dog on Walla. Luckily Kaya passed away before they managed to include her in the circle of bribery suspects,” the statement to media outlets said, referring to the Netanyahus’ late pet.
“There is no end to the absurdity, and in any case the coverage of Prime Minister Netanyahu at Walla was and regularly remains negative.”
Earlier, a police representative told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that there was evidence that Shaul and Iris Elovitch, as well as Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, were all aware of the financial implications of the alleged scheme.
A report in March from Channel 10 news said police are in possession of correspondence between Sara Netanyahu and Iris Elovitch, including Whatsapp messages relating to the benefits extended to Bezeq and complaints from the prime minister’s wife over Walla’s coverage.
The revelations by police at Thursday’s hearing were made in response to a question from Iris Elovitch’s attorney on whether Sara Netanyahu was aware the flattering press from Walla was allegedly made in exchange for regulatory favors.
At the hearing, a representative for the State Prosecutor’s Office said the investigation is in its “advanced stages” and is expected to be transferred to prosecutors in the next six months following additional investigatory work.
The hearing dealt with a police request to extend a freeze on the Elovitches’ assets for an additional six months.
Lawyers for Sara Netanyahu dismissed the police announcement and insisted on their client’s innocence.
“What is new in this absurd ‘suspicion?’” her lawyers asked in a statement to the press. “So what if the police said it? It never happened.”
Earlier this month, police interrogated Prime Minister Netanyahu in connection with Case 4000, marking the 11th time he has faced officers over a series of corruption probes. Police are reportedly leaning toward recommending the prime minister be charged with bribery in the case.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in Case 4000 and in two other corruption probes in which police have recommended he stand trial for taking bribes. Those cases also involve suspicions he advanced businessmen’s interests in exchange for favors.
In addition to her legal woes in Case 4000, Sara Netanyahu was charged in June for alleged misuse of some $100,000 in state funds. She is set to be tried on the charges next month.
She has denied wrongdoing.