Regulator recommends indictment of PM's former allies in Bezeq probe

Two of the suspects under the gun, Shaul Elovitch and Shlomo Filber, were once major allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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November 6, 2017 13:28
2 minute read.
The logo of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd, the country's largest telecom group, is seen.

The logo of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd, the country's largest telecom group, is seen outside their headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel June 21, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

 
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The Israel Securities Authority recommended on Monday that top Bezeq, Yes and government officials be indicted on charges of fraud, violation of conflicts of interest rules and insider-data sharing.

Two of the suspects in Case 4000, Shaul Elovitch and Shlomo Filber, are former major allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Another is Bezeq CEO Stella Handler.

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Filber, who was Likud campaign chairman in 2015 and an important Netanyahu aide in earlier years, was appointed Communications Ministry director-general by Netanyahu in 2015.

Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Yes, Bezeq, Pelephone, Bezeq International, Spacecom Satellite Communications and Walla, has been a close friend of Netanyahu's who, until June 2016, also served as communications minister.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has alleged that Netanyahu may have violated conflict of interest principles in his relations with Filber and Elovitch, but none of that figured into Monday’s announcement, nor has it spawned investigations of the prime minister to date.

Elovitch, Handler and Filber already had been placed under temporary house arrest in July as the investigation went into high gear. Additional top officials also appear likely to be charged including, according to reports, Elovitch’s son, Or, and YES CEO Ron Ayalon.

Monday’s announcement by the ISA confirmed that the allegations concern suspected securities fraud carried out by Elovitch and others.

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The likely indictments center on suspicions that Elovitch sold YES, the satellite television service – of which he is also the controlling shareholder – to Bezeq at an excessive price, allowing him to pocket NIS 170 million.

Filber and other Bezeq officials are suspected of transferring confidential government and independent board-meeting data and meeting minutes to Elovitch, who then had an illegal inside track on the strategy of what was supposed to be Bezeq’s independent board and of government policy on key issues, which allowed him to illegally influence policy.

According to the ISA statement, Elovitch and his co-conspirators at Bezeq and within the government acted systematically and over an extended period of time in illegally coordinating policy changes.

“I thank the Authority investigators for their professional and strenuous work, which they performed night and day to complete the investigation… the probe is one the most complex and charged that the authority has handled… using some of the most advanced technology in the world,” said ISA chairman Shmuel Hauser.

In July, the comptroller report accused the premier of failing to disclose contacts with Elovitch in his role as communications minister from November 2014 to February 2017 and accused Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit of being too lenient with Netanyahu regarding incomplete disclosures.

Mandelblit and the state prosecutor will make the ultimate decision about whether to indict the various suspects.

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