צילום: אלי דסה, קובי גדעון, לע"מ
Netanyahu, Elovich allegedly met on Bezeq-Yes merger
Police are investigating suspicions the prime minister and the former Bezeq owner held a secret meeting at the PM's official residence ahead of a 2015 discussion at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council about the merger between the telecommunications giant and the satellite TV company.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Bezeq majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch allegedly had a secret meeting in 2015 ahead of an important discussion at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council on the merger of telecommunications giant Bezeq and satellite TV company Yes.
Police are investigating suspicions the prime minister and the businessman had a quid-pro-quo relationship in which Bezeq enjoyed regulatory benefits in return for favorable coverage of the Netanyahu family on Walla! News, which is owned by the telecommunications giant. Both Netanyahu and Elovitch concealed the conflict of interest and only later, under court order, revealed that they met several times.
As part of the investigation—also known as Case 4000 or the Bezeq corruption affair—police have collected testimonies according to which the 2015 meeting concerned the planned merger, and Elovitch, then the owner of Bezeq, was satisfied by the outcome of the meeting.
Inside sources said that because of the prime minister's busy schedule, the meeting was held at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, and that Elovitch was brought in through a back door.
Investigators in the police's National Financial Investigations Unit are looking into this meeting, which they believe demonstrates the close ties between Netanyahu and Elovitch.
Police also have information that in either this meeting or in another meeting between the two at the official residence, then-Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber—who is now a state's witness in the case—was waiting outside the door.
The Bezeq-Yes merger, which began taking shape in March 2015, was approved three months later by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council. It also received the approval of Netanyahu, who was also the communications minister at the time.
Bezeq shareholders approved the acquisition of Yes—50 percent of which was already owned by Elovitch—for NIS 600 million.
When news of the deal first became public, questions began to emerge about Bezeq's decision to make this acquisition, which did not make sense economically, as at the time Yes's worth was estimated at no more than NIS 300 million. Later, it transpired that senior Bezeq and Yes executives manipulated the financial records.
Jack Chen, who represents Elovitch, said that "the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council's decision on the Bezeq and Yes merger was in June 2015. The prime minister and Mr. Elovitch didn't meet at all in the months preceding this decision, and in any case the Bezeq-Yes merger did not come up in any meeting or conversation between the two—not with regards to a meeting or a decision of some sort, nor in any other context."
"The decision by the Anti-Trust Authority, which was made in March 2014, also has no connection and can have no connection to any meeting between the prime minister and Mr. Elovitch. This decision was made after a six-months-long public hearing held by the authority, and to the best of Mr. Elovitch's knowledge, the prime minister did not have and could not have had anything to do with this decision. In any case, the two did not discuss this matter either. Therefore, the report is denied entirely and has no leg to stand on," the lawyer added.
A response on behalf of the prime minister said: "Another false leak; this never happened. The issue of the Bezeq-Yes merger was not discussed in any meeting between the prime minister and Elovitch, not even a word."