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State witness, editor testify in Bezeq case said to involve Netanyahu

Former ministry head Shlomo Filber cooperating in probe of news site that gave PM positive coverage, allegedly in exchange for policies that benefited its owner

Former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber arrives for a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on February 18, 2018. (Flash90)
Former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber arrives for a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

Several central figures testified Wednesday in the Bezeq corruption case, dubbed Case 4000, including the editor-in-chief of a major Israeli news site and Communications Ministry director Shlomo Filber, who on Tuesday signed a deal to turn state witness and possibly incriminate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the affair.

Filber has reportedly agreed to testify that he was instructed by the premier to provide regulatory benefits to telephone company Bezeq in exchange for Bezeq’s chief shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, giving Netanyahu and his family positive coverage on the Walla news site, which he owns.

In exchange for his testimony, Filber reportedly demanded that he not serve time in prison, a provision police approved.

Israeli businessman, Shaul Elovitch arrives for extension of his remand in case 4000 at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

Filber, who has been remanded until Thursday, arrived at the Lod headquarters of Israel Police’s anti-fraud unit Lahav 433 to give his first testimony as a state witness.

Meanwhile, Aviram Elad, the editor of Walla, gave testimony at the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) over the alleged tilting of the website’s coverage in favor of the prime minister.

Other senior figures at Walla, including news department head Michal Klein and former chief editor Yinon Magal, testified at the ISA office on Tuesday, Ynet reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his wife Sara Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 28, 2017. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

Netanayhu and his wife, Sara, are also expected to be questioned in the probe, reportedly as suspects.

Netanyahu was acting communications minister at the time several allegedly illicit deals were made with Elovitch, one of which included helping Bezeq buy the satellite cable provider Yes, overriding antitrust issues raised by ministry officials. The prime minister, who is reportedly suspected of furthering that deal, denies any wrongdoing.

Last week, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in two other cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth 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.

The prime minister has also been linked indirectly to Case 3000, a large investigation into suspected corruption surrounding a multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder. While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, close associates of his, including two personal aides, have been arrested or questioned.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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