The 'golden evidence' in Case 4000
A document from The Anti-Trust Authority about the Bezeq-Yes merger prompted Shaul Elovitch, then a shareholder in both companies who stood to gain NIS 1 billion from the deal, to ask for an urgent meeting with Netanyahu, then also the communications minister. Elovitch allegedly instructed Netanyahu what to do to ensure the deal goes ahead.
The Israel Police announced Sunday that there is sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu and his wife Sara for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, which deals with suspected corruption tied to telecommunications giant Bezeq and the Walla! News website.
The prime minister is suspected of taking bribes and acting in a conflict of interest by promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq and its then-majority shareholder Shaul Elovitch. In return, the prime minister allegedly received favorable coverage on Walla! News, which is owned by Bezeq.
Police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. One involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends, and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a newspaper in return for positive coverage.
All three cases now await the decision of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who is the only one authorized to order the investigation or indictment of a sitting prime minister.
Shaul Elovitch, who controlled both Bezeq and the satellite TV company Yes separately, sought to merge the two companies. At the time, Yes was owned by both Bezeq and Elovitch privately through the Eurocom Group, with each side holding 50 percent of the company. As part of the merger, Elovitch sold his private shares in Yes to Bezeq, making over NIS 1 billion ($269 million) from the deal.
At first, the Communications Ministry under Minister Gilad Erdan placed obstacles in the way of the merger, but after the 2015 elections Netanyahu decided to hold onto the communications portfolio, replaced director-general Avi Berger with Shlomo Filber—another suspect in the case who later turned state's witness—and later approved the Bezeq-Yes merger. According to the police, this approval was in return for positive coverage of the Netanyahu couple in Walla! News, which Elovitch owns.
The police claim that "Netanyahu acted according to Elovitch's will on the merger," backing it with what has been referred to as the "golden evidence": a detailed document from The Anti-Trust Authority about the merger, following which Elovitch asked for an urgent meeting with Netanyahu in order to instruct him on how to act.
Nir Hefetz, the prime minister's confidant who later also turned state's witness, was sent to the Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem to deliver the document to Netanyahu, allegedly telling the prime minister that Elovitch wishes to meet with him urgently to discuss the Bezeq-Yes merger. Hefetz allegedly left Netanyahu the document, and a meeting between Netanyahu and Elovitch—which did not appear on the prime minister's official public schedule—was held shortly thereafter.
While the prime minister's official schedule showed a different meeting taking place at the residence, police suspect Elovitch was brought in through a side-door to meet with Netanyahu.
Elovitch refused to comment on the meeting in his police questioning. Netanyahu did not deny such a meeting took place, but told investigators the two did not discuss the Bezeq-Yes merger.
In addition to the document that prompted the meeting, police also tracked the location of Elovitch's cellphone, showing he was present at the official residence at the time of the alleged meeting.
"The objective evidence we have in this case is strong," an official with knowledge of the investigation said. "We also have testimonies from objective witnesses and strong evidence about the existence of the meeting and its content."
Attorney General Mandelblit was persuaded to launch an investigation into Netanyahu and Elovitch's alleged quid-pro-quo relationship after receiving a 26,446-lines-long Excel report prepared by the Israel Securities Authority, which details the thousands of phone call recordings, text messages, and emails collected by Walla! News CEO Ilan Yeshua as well as the documents provided to investigators by Filber and other witnesses.
Prime Minister Netanyahu attacked the police on Sunday night, saying, "the release of the recommendations (to indict) on the last day of the police commissioner's tenure proves what I've been saying from day one: This is a rigged game."