State witness said to give evidence PM knowingly engaged in graft in Bezeq case

State witness said to give evidence PM knowingly engaged in graft in Bezeq case

Hadashot news reports Nir Hefetz gave investigators new info, names in all three Netanyahu probes; premier to be questioned again on June 12

In this April 29, 2018 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
In this April 29, 2018 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Police will question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a tenth time next month, having acquired new evidence from a key state’s witness in a corruption investigation concerning the Bezeq telecom giant, Hadashot TV news reported Friday.

The prime minister is set to be questioned in the probe, known as Case 4000, on June 12.

The case involved suspicions that Netanyahu, who has served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as premier, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

According to Hadashot, new evidence provided to police by former top Netanyahu adviser turned state’s witness Nir Hefetz shows that mutually beneficial actions by Netanyahu and Elovitch were not incidental — rather, both parties were fully aware that they were acting as part of an illicit quid pro quo deal.

Hefetz reportedly told police he would at times speak with Elovitch 6-7 times a day in his capacity as Netanyahu’s adviser.

The state prosecution is currently considering whether to indict the prime minister in two other corruption probes, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000, after police in February recommended putting Netanyahu on trial in both.

Nir Hefetz appears in a Tel Aviv court on February 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, is the third confidant of the premier to become state’s witness in the various cases, joining former Communications Ministry director general Shlomo Filber and former chief of staff Ari Harow.

Hadashot reported that Hefetz has provided officials with further evidence in Cases 1000 and 2000 as well.

In Case 1000 — in which Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors — Hefetz reportedly provided investigators with names of additional patrons of the couple, seemingly strengthening the case that the alleged behavior was part of a pattern.

In Case 2000 — which involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes — Hefetz was said to have provided names of additional figures involved in the conversations between the two.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in response that the Hadashot report “will amount to nothing.”

Publisher and owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Arnon ‘Noni’ Mozes arrives for questioning at the Lahav 433 investigation unit in Lod on January 15, 2017. (Koko/Flash90)

Meanwhile Channel 10 news reported that Hefetz told police American casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson refused to go along with Netanyahu’s attempts to benefit Yedioth.

The premier allegedly planned to handicap Yedioth’s pro-Netanyahu rival, the free daily Israel Hayom, which is owned by Adelson. In return the prime minister would get more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

According to the TV report, Netanyahu asked Adelson to help consummate the deal, but he refused. Evidence provided by Hefetz shows that Adelson acted with propriety, the report said.

In April Channel 10 reported that prosecutors are likely to recommend charging Netanyahu with breach of trust in Case 1000, but may not pursue more serious bribery charges.

American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony at Ariel University in the West Bank on June 28, 2017. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

Prosecutors have yet to formulate an opinion on Case 2000.

The prime minister’s wife Sara and son Yair have both been questioned in the cases as well. The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing.

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 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.

Police have clarified repeatedly that Netanyahu is currently not a suspect in Case 3000.

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