Police are reportedly leaning towards recommending an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery in the Bezeq corruption probe, known as Case 4000.
Investigators suspect Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm — despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials — in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Netanyahu will be questioned in the case for the last time on Friday, after which investigators will establish their conclusions, with an unnamed source telling Hadashot TV on Tuesday that the evidence will likely be deemed by police as sufficient to charge the premier with bribery.
Sources close to Netanyahu responded to the report by saying: “Why do you need a police investigation if there is already a recommendation? First they make the decision and then they investigate — this is an outrage.”
Friday’s questioning won’t be Netanyahu’s last, however, as he will be called for further grilling on Case 1000 and Case 2000 — two corruption probes in which police have already recommended a bribery indictment — in light of new information recently revealed by state witness Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s former media adviser.
In Case 1000, the so-called gifts scandal, Netanyahu is suspected of “systematically” demanding benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in exchange for favors.
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 denied wrongdoing in all of the cases.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will make the final decision whether to indict the prime minister, reportedly intends to examine all three cases at the same time — which will be possible only after he receives the state attorney’s conclusions on the three cases.
That is likely to happen only rather late in 2019, possibly after the next Knesset elections — currently slated for November 2019 but which may very well be held earlier.
The Hadashot report also said a tax offense investigation against Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was reaching its final stages, with police likely to recommend an indictment against him as well.
It added that the process in Deri’s case would be much quicker than in the Netanyahu cases.
Deri, the leader of ultra-Orthodox party Shas, is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family, as well as suspected tax fraud linked to the sale of apartments to his brother.
Deri and his wife Yaffa have been questioned under caution as criminal suspects. They face possible charges of theft, fraud, and tax evasion.
Aryeh Deri has previously denied any wrongdoing on his part or his wife’s.
Deri already served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s.