Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's two associates who were arrested early Sunday morning as part of the Bezeq case (Case 4000) are premier’s close adviser Nir Hefetz, and Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber.
Their names were under a court gag order that was lifted on Tuesday.
Case 4000, otherwise known as the “Bezeq case,” looks into the relations between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, owner of the Bezeq telecommunications company. Elovitch has also been arrested as part of the investigation, as have his wife and son.
It was previously reported that as part of the investigation, the police suspected Netanyahu had acted through different messengers to help his close friend Elovitch and Bezeq in return for favorable coverage on the Walla! news website, which Elovitch owns.
Hefetz is reportedly suspected of accepting bribe and obstruction of justice.
Hefetz is considered to be close to the Netanyahu family, and served as the family’s spokesman between 2014-2017.
In 2009, when Netanyahu was elected as prime minister, Hefetz was appointed to be his director of communications and public diplomacy.
Filber is reportedly suspected of giving bribe, fraud, breach of trust and other offenses.
Filber was appointed by Netanyahu to be the communications ministry director-general after the election to the 20th Knesset when the prime minister decided to keep that portfolio for himself.
Only in February 2017 did Netanyahu give up the portfolio, which was then given temporarily to Tsachi Hangebi, and eventually to Ayoub Kara.
Channel 2 News reported that the police are now focused on Filber, in an effort to make him a state’s witness.
The report said Filber was nicknamed “the coordinator” because of his alleged role with Elovitch and Netanyahu. The report hinted that “because he did not take even one shekel to his pocket,” police will try to get him to sign a state’s witness deal.
Among those arrested is also Bezeq CEO Stella Handler. According to reports, Handler is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and other offenses.
The police said in a statement on Sunday that new evidence found by the ISA, which has conducted the investigation so far, led to a new joint police-ISA probe being launched. Transferring the case from the ISA to a joint investigation seems to indicate the case entails more than securities offenses and could include bribery and fraud offenses, which are more in the purview of the police.
Channel 10 News reported on Monday that as part of his testimony, Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua told his interrogators he was pressured to fire Walla! editor-in-chief Aviram Elad after Elad approved posting an article on the so-called “submarines affair” that “the Netanyahu couple didn’t like.”
According to the report, Yeshua said that after the article was published in November 2016, Sara Netanyahu started looking for more background information on Elad and found an article he wrote in which he expressed his support for the Iran nuclear deal that her husband opposed.
The couple then turned to Elovitch and asked him to fire Elad. Elovitch relayed that to Yeshua, who rejected the demand.
Channel 10 News reported this response to the story from Netanyahu: “We will not comment on this false claim that is heard in the media. There was nothing [received] in return, and nothing illegal that was done with Elovitch. As it was reported by the Justice Ministry to the state comptroller: ‘The prime minister did not make controversial decisions, and there was no decision that was made to benefit Bezeq specifically.’”