Shaul Elovitch, owner of the Bezeq telecommunications company..
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
One day after the Israel Police announced a joint investigation with the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) in the “Bezeq case,” otherwise known as Case 4000, Bezeq telecommunications company owner Shaul Elovitch denied the allegations made against him.
“Elovitch forcefully denies any suspicions against him,” a statement issued on behalf of Elovitch said. “We strongly advise to remain patient and not rush to conclusions. We are absolutely sure that when things clear out, it will be proven that [Elovitch] did not commit any offense.”
It was previously reported that as part of the Case 4000 investigation, the police suspect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 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.
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.
Police carried out a round of arrests Sunday morning, including two former high-ranking officials in the Prime Minister’s Office considered close to Netanyahu and senior Bezeq officials. The names of those arrested remained under a court gag order at press time.
Police also summoned Walla! CEO Ilan Yeshua, considered a key witness in the case, to testify.
Channel 10 News reported on Monday that as part of his testimony, 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.’”
Channel 2 News reported that the police are now focused on Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, who is reportedly considered a main suspect in the case.
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.