Haim Geron, a witness in the corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of the two Israelis killed in a light plane crash in Greece on Monday. The other was his wife, Esti.
The names of the Gerons, the only two casualties of the crash, were cleared for publication on Tuesday.
Geron was a past deputy director-general for engineering and licensing at the Communications Ministry.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the couple took off from Haifa on a single-engine plane in the afternoon and were flying close to the island of Samos, near Turkey, when their light aircraft went down Monday evening.
Their bodies were recovered by the Greek coastguard several hours later with the help of divers.
The ministry said consular officials at the embassy in Athens were in touch with the family and that it was helping to bring them to Israel for burial.
Officials said Tuesday that Greece’s Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Board was investigating the causes of the crash.
“Shortly before landing, communication with the control tower on Samos was lost and the Civil Aviation Authority informed the search and rescue center about the loss of communication,” the authority said in a statement.
Greek media have said the Cessna 172 plane appeared to have suffered a technical problem and disappeared from radar, but the cause of the crash remains unclear.
Netanyahu is on trial for three corruption cases known as Case 1000, Case 2000, and Case 4000. In Case 4000, the most serious of the three, Netanyahu is alleged to have abused his powers when he served as both premier and communications minister from 2014 to 2017.
Netanyahu is accused of using his position in order to illicitly and very lucratively benefit the business interests of Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the telecom company Bezeq. In exchange, Elovitch allegedly provided Netanyahu and his family with positive coverage on the Elovitch-owned Walla news website, including allowing the then-prime minister’s associates and family members to dictate editorial content and policy on a regular basis.
In May 2020, Geron, an attorney by training, spoke with Radio 103FM about the testimony he had given in the Netanyahu trial and said it related to the development of the country’s optical fiber infrastructure, the communications industry, and telephone services. Probed as to whether he had ever witnessed any criminal activity at the ministry, Geron respond that “the court is the only one that can determine if something is criminal or not.”
He stressed that he was not questioned about the Bezeq-Yes deal, which is a key element of the trial. That deal, which went ahead in 2015, was worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Elovitch, according to the state prosecution, and Netanyahu’s alleged intervention to approve it as communications minister was part of his illicit quid pro quid arrangement with Elovitch, according to the charges.
The Netanyahu trial resumed on Monday with the continued cross-examination of key state witness former Walla website CEO Ilan Yeshua.
Case 1000 involves allegations that Netanyahu receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors. Case 2000 involves a separate alleged quid pro quo deal with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon Mozes, for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening a rival newspaper.