Former Netanyahu media adviser Nir Hefetz.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Recruiting state’s witnesses in police investigations is an important tool in combating corruption in the political sphere, Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich said on Tuesday.
In an apparent response to criticism – mainly from politicians – and in light of developments in the corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alsheich explained that these witnesses are crucial to police in deterring crime organization, as well as government officials, from carrying out illegal activities.
“Everyone knows that it is not easy to commit a crime, thinking that you are protected by someone who might turn his back on you,” he said at the Sderot Conference that took place at Sapir Academic College. “Now every person will act cautiously around his secretary and driver.
“Government corruption is slippery and very hard to prove, and that is why people sometimes feel safe, that there is no danger of them being caught,” he continued. “But when those close to you could turn against you, everyone takes it into consideration. From our perspective, the most important thing is that people will be less likely to commit crimes.”
When asked if there are more state’s witnesses coming, the commissioner said: “I am not willing to leak [information on] who is being questioned in the prime minister cases, or in any ongoing cases, and in general I believe that this is the norm that we should keep.”
Alsheich stressed that the police’s job is “to reduce the level of corruption,” and not to show off their success in recruiting state’s witnesses. “If what we’re doing is not helping to reduce corruption, then we’re not fulfilling our duty to society,” he said.
On Monday, it was revealed that Nir Hefetz, one of those closest to the prime minister who used the be the Netanyahu family media adviser, signed a state’s witness deal with the police and the prosecution in the “Bezeq case,” also known as Case 4000.
According to the deal, Hefetz received full immunity from prosecution.
Hefetz’s deal also includes an article saying that he will never again work in public service, Channel 2 News reported on Tuesday.
Hefetz is the third close Netanyahu associate to sign a state’s witness deal. In August, it was Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow; and last month it was the Communications Ministry suspended director-general Shlomo Filber.
On Tuesday, investigators continued their questioning of Hefetz, who is under detention in a special isolated facility.
Hefetz is reportedly providing information about the alleged corrupt relationship between the prime minister and Bezeq telecommunications company controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, who also owns the Walla news website. According to Channel 10 New report, Hefetz told interrogators that Netanyahu was aware that his wife, Sara, and their son Yair were pressuring Walla for positive coverage, and also knew about the benefits for Bezeq.
The Prime Minister Office has commented on these allegations in the past by saying that all of Netanyahu’s actions regarding Bezeq were taken in a professional manner and based on the recommendation of professional officials and legal advice.
It was also reported that Hefetz is also providing the police information in Case 1000 (the “gifts affair”) and Case 2000 (the “Yediot Aharonot
Affair”). Police already recommended to the state prosecution to indict the prime minister in both these cases.