A one-time confidante to Benjamin Netanyahu began testifying against him Monday in the former prime minister's corruption trial in Jerusalem.
Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman for Netanyahu, is a key prosecution witness expected to deliver critical testimony in the trial, which revolves around accusations that Netanyahu committed fraud, breach of trust and accepted bribes. The former premier, now opposition leader, denies any wrongdoing.
Hefetz left a long career in journalism in 2009 to work as a spokesman for Netanyahu's government, and in 2014 became the Netanyahu family's spokesman and adviser. In 2018, after he was arrested in connection with one of Netanyahu's corruption cases, Hefetz signed a state's witness deal and provided investigators with recordings of conversations with Netanyahu and his family.
Netanyahu appeared in court to hear his former close aid's testimony after he was given the judges panel's permission to remain away during earlier witness testimonies.
At the start of his testimony, Hefetz said Netanyahu invested as much time in the press coverage he was given, as he did in matters of national security.
Netanyahu was heard giggling often during his former aid's testimony, while his supporters demonstrated outside.
Hefetz signed a state witness agreement in 2018, and is considered a key witness in Case 4,000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving bribes from communications mogul Shaul Elovich.
According to the indictment, Netanyahu received positive news coverage from the Walla News site, owned by Elovich, in exchange for regulatory changes that would have delivered Bezeq communications, a profit of approximately one billion shekels.
Netanyahu acted as communications minister as well as premier at the time.
Netanyahu and his family made demands directly and through intermediaries including Nir Hefetz, for positive coverage of by Walla and demanded negative reports about his political rivals.
The former Netanyahu aide was scheduled to testify last week, but the testimony was delayed at the last minute due to fresh allegations from a new witness.
Hefetz, who acted as media advisor for Netanyahu and his family, is also expected to testify on other charges leveled against the former prime minister including in Case 1,000 - according to which, Netanyahu and his wife demanded and received gifts from billionaire Arnon Milchen and Australian gambling mogul James Packer.