After recommending indictments in files 1,000 and 2,000, Israel Police on Sunday night moved aggressively on file 4,000, a.k.a. the Bezeq affair, arresting key players in Israel’s communications industry, whose names were released Monday night: Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s media advisor Nir Hefetz; Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber; Elovitch’s wife and son Iris and Or; and Bezeq CEO Stella Handler.
They are suspected of giving and receiving bribes in the framework of moves benefiting Bezeq, as well as encouraging favorable coverage on the Walla website, which is owned by Bezeq.
The prime minister and his wife are expected to be questioned later in connection with this investigation.
The Israel Securities Authority has already recommended the indictments of senior Bezeq officials, including Elovitch and Handler, and the government’s communications chief Filber on fraud and corruption charges. According to Ynet, police investigators have been waiting for that investigation’s material for six months, and only received it recently, following the departure of the authority’s former head.
The case police have skipped for now, file 3,000, a.k.a. the Submarine Scandal, is probably the mots serious of all the three or four cases still pending against the prime minister, involving allegations that Netanyahu opted to purchase German submarines to the tune of roughly half a billion euro each (there were three) against the expert opinion of the IDF brass, benefiting his associates.
The Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq and its subsidiaries offer a range of telecom services, including fixed-line, mobile telephony, high-speed Internet, transmission, and pay TV.
Police investigators suspect that in return for Bezeq’s subsidiary news website Walla’s favorable coverage of Netanyahu, Communications Ministry regulators—when Netanyahu was serving as Communications Minister concurrent with his tenure as prime minister—gave Bezeq preferential treatment in order to increase the communications giant’s profits – enough to enable Boss Elovitch to repay the huge sums he had borrowed in order to gain control of the Bezeq empire.
In the end, Elovitch failed to repay the banks his debts which reached more than $340 million, and lost his control of Bezeq and its very lucrative subsidiaries.
Police investigators have intimated they have SMSs, emails, and even recordings of some of the arrested individuals, who’ve been remanded by the Tel Aviv Magistrate court for four and five additional days in jail. Police and the Israel Securities Authority claim one of the people behind bars is about to offer an explosive testimony, significant enough to bring the entire case to its conclusion.
According to a police leak to Ynet, the prime minister’s former spokesman Boaz Stambler, now director of the Government Advertising Bureau (LPM), has already testified regarding the thick ties between the PM’s office and Walla regarding the news website’s favorable coverage and pressures on Walla’s staff to skew their reports.