Police question PM Netanyahu, his wife for 5 hours on Case 4000
PM questioned under caution in his official residence on Bezeq affair, investigators decline to also interrogate him on submarine probe; PM's wife Sara questioned under caution at Lahav 433 offices; PM's former bureau chief Sharan, Bezeq majority shareholder Elovitch, adviser Nir Hefetz also questioned; former senior Communications Ministry official arrested as well, is later released but may serve as state's witness.
Police investigators questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under caution for five hours on Friday in the Bezeq affair, also known as Case 4000. Investigators chose not to question the premier on the submarine, probe, however.
While the prime minister was questioned at the official residence in Jerusalem, his wife Sara Netanyahu gave testimony at the offices of the police's Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. Her testimony—which was also collected over the course of five hours—then became a questioning under caution.
Also on Friday, police detained a former senior Communications Ministry official for questioning on suspicion of breach of trust—for allegedly carrying out Netanyahu's instructions to provide Bezeq with benefits. The suspect was released Friday afternoon.
The former senior official served in the Communications Ministry during the period under review and is considered a confidant of both Netanyahu and his former media advisor Nir Hefetz, who was also questioned under caution Friday.
Channel 2 News reported that the suspect arrived to the Securities Authority's offices multiple times over the past few weeks and was intended to serve as a state's witness. The former official reportedly has a non-incrimination agreement, stating his testimony could not be used to incriminate him, and may end up serving as a state's witness.
Six people were questioned under caution in total Friday—the aforementioned senior official, the prime minister and his wife, Bezeq majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch and his wife Iris, and Hefetz.
It was also reported that police held a confrontation Thursday between two of the probe's main suspects—state's witness Shlomo Filber and Shaul Elovitch.
While the prime minister was being questioned under caution at the residence, police and Securities Authority investigators did the same to his wife at the Lahav 433 offices in Lod on suspicion of providing and receiving benefits.
"You had your husband provide Bezeq with benefits in return for favorable coverage on Walla! News," investigators told Mrs. Netanyahu. Ynet has learned they have also confronted her with the texts she had allegedly sent Iris Elovitch.
The texts were also presented to Iris Elovitch herself, who was also questioned under caution.
The premier's wife denied all charges, and told investigators—as per Channel 10 News—that, "My husband didn't know about my correspondence with Iris Elovitch regarding Walla! I asked her as a friend, ideologically. I never had anything to do with Bezeq benefits and know nothing about them."
"You surprised me by questioning me under caution," Mrs. Netanyahu reportedly added. "I thought I was only coming in to provide testimony. It's been hard with the loss of our family dog Kaya."
Both the prime minister and his wife were confronted with transcriptions of testimony and tapes provided by Walla! CEO Ilan Yeshua. According to Channel 10 News, the prime minister told investigators, "I don't deny speaking to Elovitch several times about Walla! coverage. It was ideological. I told him his website wasn't Haaretz, but I never spoke to him about Bezeq benefits, or about providing them for some kind of coverage."
Attorneys for the former senior official said that, "Inserting our client's name into this affair does him injustice. He left his position at the Communications Ministry after mere months and had nothing to do with the Bezeq-Yes (merger) deal, which was approved after he had already left.
"Our client left the Communications Ministry was (former ministry director-general) Filber was being appointed, and so he had no knowledge of anything that happened after that point.
"To remove any shred of doubt, publications about (him) reaching some kind of agreement with investigators are baseless and we strongly deny them."
While the premier and his wife were providing testimony to investigators, Netanyahu's former bureau chief David Sharan gave his own account of events surrounding the corruption approved, less than six months after being arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes in the submarine affair.
Sharan also provided testimony on the Bezeq case when it was still solely investigated by the Israel Securities Authority.
The prime minister's associate was appointed bureau chief in November 2014 and then acting chief of staff two months later, when his predecessor Ari Harow resigned. Then, in May of 2016, the Prime Minister's Office put out official word announcing Sharan was to be appointed cabinet secretary, but nearly three months later the appointment was withdrawn.
Sharan was suspected of receiving tens of thousands of shekels in bribes on the submarine corruption affair.
After his five-hour investigation concluded, the prime minister published a post on his Facebook page in which he said, "A moment before Shabbat begins, I'd like to tell you that I feel confident that there won't be anything.
"I'd like to tell you—the millions of Israel who have voiced such strong support of me, my wife and my family—something else: you warm our hearts."
The police and Securities Authority also put out their own announcement at the investigation's conclusion, which said that, "The prime minister and his wife were questioned for several hours as part of an investigation by Lahav 433 and the Securities Authority.
"The investigation is held with the accompaniment and supervision of the state attorney and with approval by the attorney general. No further comment can be made at this time."
As police and Israel Securities Agency (ISA) investigators arrived at the prime minister's residence, several demonstrators protested outside and called on Netanyahu to resign.
Investigators asked for the prime minister's version to allegations Elovitch enjoyed some NIS 1 billion in regulatory benefits for Bezeq while Netanyahu was also serving as the communications minister, in return for granting the prime minister and his family favorable coverage on his Walla! News website, which is fully owned by the telecommunications giant.
They were also expected to present Netanyahu with evidence showing that as communication minister, he continued handling affairs relating to Elovitch and Bezeq despite the attorney general's instructions not to do so because of the close relationship between them.
Channel 10 News reported on Thursday that in one such conversation during the run up to the last elections, Elovitch was recorded telling Yeshua that Netanyahu "was making an effort for us, we need to make an effort too."
Elovitch's attorney Jack Chen denied the report, while Elovitch himself told investigators that he might have acted to please Netanyahu, but insisted he did so of his own volition and not under instructions from the prime minister.
Mrs. Netanyahu was asked to provide explanations to some of her communications with Iris Elovitch, the Bezeq owner's wife.
Police are believed to have records of text messages the two exchanged, as well as evidence that Iris Elovitch allegedly held conversations with the Walla! CEO about the coverage of the Netanyahu family, while the prime minister's wife was on the line.
The Netanyahu family said Thursday, "Fake news. Nothing happened. The continuation of the systematic false leaks against Mrs. Netanyahu is done in an effort to hurt the government and the Likud rule. Despite this, they're claiming there are no leaks."