Israeli state witness reveals new details in Netanyahu corruption case

Israeli state witness reveals new details in Netanyahu corruption case
A key witness in the Bezeq telecom corruption case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed new details to investigators.
3 min read
05 September, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an October pre-trial hearing on the corruption allegations [AFP/Getty]

A state witness in the corruption case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed scathing details to investigators on Thursday. 

Netanyahu is standing for his fifth term in upcoming 17 September elections. Shortly after the elections, he faces an October pre-trial hearing on the corruption allegations that have dogged him for months.

In what is considered the most serious of the cases, the prime minister is accused of advocating regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage for himself from a media company owned by the then Bezeq CEO.

An Israeli television channel revealed Thursday that a key witness in the Bezeq telecom case told investigators that the prime minister's wife and son told him to see to it that the wife of Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch delete all written communication between them. 

Channel 13 disclosed Nir Hefetz's statement, in which he said: "In mid-2017, Sara and Yair [Netanyahu] summoned me urgently to Balfour [the prime minister’s residence], under great pressure". 

"Yair was really stressed, really on the verge of trembling. They asked me to go urgently to Iris Elovitch and to … stand next to her and make sure she deleted all the correspondence between them."

If Netanyahu secures a fifth term in upcoming 17 September elections he could face the prospect of becoming the first sitting Israeli premier to be indicted.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit set the October deadline for the premier's hearing in May, rejecting a request for a 12-month delay.

Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in February, following up on police recommendations.

A letter from Mandelblit's office to Netanyahu attorney Amit Hadad, made public in February by the justice ministry, refers to Hadad's request to put back the hearing until May 14, 2020 so that he can fully examine police evidence passed to him last week.

Alongside the Bezeg case, Netanyahu also allegedly sought a secret deal with the publisher of Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival paper.

Comment: Netanyahu's political troubles could be good news for Palestinians

The third case involves suspicions the premier and his family received luxury gifts such as cigars and champagne from wealthy individuals, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Netanyahu's wife was sentenced in June to pay a fine of roughly $15,000 for misusing state funds. A Jerusalem magistrate court accepted the plea bargain Sara Netanyahu signed with prosecutors to settle the allegations she misused some $100,000 in state money on lavish meals.

The prime minister has called the allegations against him a "witch hunt".

Even if he is charged, Netanyahu, would not legally be forced to stand down until he had been convicted and had exhausted all avenues for appeal.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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