Communications Ministry director-general grilled in Bezeq probe

Shlomo Filber suspected of giving favorable treatment to telecom giant.

Bezeq Truck (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Bezeq Truck
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Israel Securities Authority officials questioned Shlomo Filber, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, a second time on Thursday in an ongoing probe of the country’s largest telecommunications company Bezeq and its controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.
Filber was questioned “on suspicions of committing integrity and securities offenses,” the Securities Authority said, while Hebrew media reported that he is suspected of giving favorable treatment to Bezeq.
On Thursday afternoon a hearing will be held at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's court to decide if Filber can be released to house arrest.
On Wednesday, the State Comptroller’s Office issued a report critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Filber’s undisclosed conflicts of interests with Elovitch. Who is a friend of Netanyahu.
The report was submitted to the Israeli Securities Authority before it was published.
The investigation of Bezeq concerns suspicions of securities fraud carried out by Elovitch. The investigation centers on suspicions that he sold the satellite television service Yes – of which he is the controlling shareholder – to Bezeq at an excessive price, allowing him to pocket NIS 170 million.
On Tuesday the Securities Authority said the investigation of Bezeq was expanded to include a communications deal signed with the satellite provider Spacecom Communication, which is controlled by Elovitch. The authority temporary halted trade in shares of Bezeq and Spacecom.
Wednesday’s State Comptroller’s Report said that there should have been parameters imposed by the attorney-general on Filber’s ability to work on issues related to Bezeq and Yes.
 According to the report, Filber, who was Likud campaign chairman in 2015 and an important Netanyahu aide in earlier years, was named Communications Ministry director-general as a political appointment.
The report accused the premier of failing to disclose contacts with Elovitch in his role as communications minister . Netanyahu, in addition to being prime minister, held that position from November 2014 to February 2017.
Instead, Filber was able to play an active role in decisions concerning Bezeq, and in December 2016 he issued a letter approving Bezeq’s merger with Yes, TheMarker reported.
Attorney Jack Chen, who represents Filber, told Channel 2 news that his client acted “flawlessly.”
Trade in Bezeq was previously halted late last month, when the Securities Authority announced its investigation into Elovitch and Bezeq.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.