Israel Police hacked phone of key person in Netanyahu case - reports

The evidence gathered was not used in trial and kept from prosecutors and investigators.

 Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court on November 16. (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court on November 16.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)

The cellphone of a central person in the public corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was illegally hacked by the police cyber unit without court approval, multiple Hebrew media outlets reported on Wednesday night.

According to the reports, the police cyber unit did not pass on the information it gleaned to the police investigations department or the state prosecution.

Despite that qualification, a new revelation that the police may have used illegal cyber tools even in collecting intelligence on someone at the center of the Netanyahu cases sent shock waves throughout the country, and led to wild speculation about altering the course of the case.

Sources close to Netanyahu said that the report was “an earthquake,” accused the police of “polluting the investigation process” and vowed that there would be “enormous consequences.”

Lawyers for co-defendant and Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch said that if the report is true, it would represent “a grave crime,” and that there would be serious consequences in court.

THE ISRAEL POLICE conducts its high-level investigations through Lahav 433, the country’s ‘FBI,’ headquartered in this building in Lod. (credit: WIKIPEDIA)THE ISRAEL POLICE conducts its high-level investigations through Lahav 433, the country’s ‘FBI,’ headquartered in this building in Lod. (credit: WIKIPEDIA)

At the very least, the latest news was expected to lead to postponements of the next witnesses at trial until the situation is further clarified, and Netanyahu’s defense team has received a full report on what occurred.

It could also undermine the prosecution’s credibility with the court, and empower Netanyahu to seek an improved plea bargain.

Alternatively, the prosecution, which did not respond Wednesday night, may seek to downplay the issue as irrelevant to the trial if they did not use it to prove the charges against the former prime minister.

These allegations are the latest spin-off of the police-NSO affair. It is especially embarrassing because the police initially, loudly and repeatedly denied that there were any such illegal hacks in general, and in the Netanyahu case in particular.

According to N12, a recording it received may show that some police investigators learned about the use of the cellphone hacking tool and were discussing it right before they questioned the former Netanyahu aide who turned state’s witness, Shlomo Filber.

The report indicated that the investigators seemed to think that the hacking was illegal, but might not have been part of the decision to initiate the hacking.

Filber has been expected to testify in the coming weeks.