PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour the Magshimim Forest together with their sons Yair (right) and Avner in 2016. (GPO).
(photo credit: GPO)
A senior police official told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, is suspected of bribery in Case 4000. Police later leaked that their son Yair is also a suspect.
Also known as the Bezeq-Walla Affair, Case 4000 involves allegations that Netanyahu ordered preferential treatment for Bezeq in exchange for positive media coverage by the Walla media outlet. Tycoon Shaul Elovitch owns both companies.
Police are investigating whether Sara and Yair acted as Netanyahu’s emissaries to Elovitch, his wife, Iris, and Walla’s then-director-general Ilan Yehoshua to persuade them to have Walla favor the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s associates mocked the new allegations, saying that the Netanyahu family’s recently deceased dog Kaya also received positive coverage on the Walla News site.
“Kaya had the good fortune to pass away before she, too, would have been added to the circle of those suspected of bribery,” the Netanyahu family said in a statement. “There is no limit to the absurdity. But in any case, the coverage of the prime minister on Walla News was and remains consistently negative.”
In addition, many reports have alluded to Sara Netanyahu assisting in pushing Walla to cover the prime minister more positively, even potentially and implicitly threatening Walla at certain points for negative coverage.
However, Thursday’s statement was the first official statement that the prime minister’s wife is a suspect, along with the prime minister and son Yair, in the media bribery affair.
The statement came in a side comment, at a hearing mostly about the status of property that the police seized from the Elovitch family as part of the investigation.
During cross-examination, Elovitch’s lawyer sought to compare the police’s treatment and suspicions regarding Sara Netanyahu to the treatment of the Elovitchs. The police statement that Sara Netanyahu is a bribery suspect came out during those questions.
Sara Netanyahu had already been separately indicted for some NIS 360,000 of fraud in the “Prepared Food Affair”. Her trial in that case is slated to begin in October.
The Netanyahu family spokesperson denied the newfound allegations, saying: “What’s new about this absurd suspicion? So the police say. These allegations never happened.”
While Yitzhak Rabin’s wife, Leah, was investigated for having an illegal bank account in the United States when he was prime minister in 1977, and Ariel Sharon’s son – former MK Omri Sharon – was investigated and served jail time for a scandal relating to fund-raising for his father’s 1999 Likud leadership campaign, this is the first time that a sitting prime minister, his wife and child have ever been investigated together in the same probe.
Late Thursday night, Channel 1 predicted – based on statements by the state’s lawyer – that Case 4000 would be turned over to the prosecution within six months, and that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision in the case would be delayed until late 2019.
However, The Jerusalem Post has learned that the statement was made in a complex context relating to the Elovitchs’ valuables, and that expecting the police to take another six months before they turn over the case would be a misreading.
There are still strong indications that Mandelblit will decide by or before the early months of 2019, though investigations are always dynamic.
In June, the Post reported exclusively that Mandelblit would likely indict the prime minister for bribery in Case 4000.
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