There are suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "forgot" to report meetings that he held when he was Minister of Communications with Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ) controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, who is under investigation for fraud.
Following a petition on freedom of information submitted by Adv. Shahar Ben-Meir, the district attorney disclosed information on seven meetings held by Netanyahu with Elovitch - all of them in the Prime Minister's residence in Balfour Street in Jerusalem between January 1 2013 and November 17 2015 when Netanyahu was Minister of Communications.
However, "Globes" has received information that Netanyahu and Elovitch met on at least one other occasion during that period during a dinner where Netanyahu and his wife and Elovitch and his wife as well as other were guests. The meeting was during the controversial period when Bezeq was waiting for approval from the Ministry of Communications for the merger between Bezeq and DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. (YES).
Adv. Ben-Meir re-submitted his request for information today to the Prime Minister's Office to the Ombudsman in charge of freedom of information for full disclosure about meetings between Netanyahu and Elovitch, claiming that only information about meetings at the Prime Minister's residence had been detailed.
Adv. Ben-Meir also submitted the declaration of a resident from the Tel Aviv suburb of Tzahala - Yagil Yeshua - claiming that he saw Netanyahu and his entourage coming several times to Elovitch's house in Yehonatan Street in Tzahala.
Yeshua claims he was in the habit of walking his dog along Yehonatan Street on his way to a park there. Yeshua, a journalist and manager of a production company, told "Globes," "Despite the response of the prime minister, I stand behind the things that I have written in my declaration. Maybe the prime minister wasn't in Elovitch's house but his motorcade came there."
In recent years, Elovitch has tried to downplay his relationship with Netanyahu describing their connection as "minimal."
Elovitch is currently being investigated by the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) regarding fraudulent irregularities in the Bezeq-Yes merger. He denies all the charges. Following the meetings between Netanyahu and Elovitch, it is possible that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will instruct that Netanyahu be questioned about the Bezeq case.
Shlomo Filber, Ministry of Communications director general appointed by Netanyahu is already suspected of criminal involvement in the Bezeq affair.
In response the Prime Minister's Office said, "The charge of not reporting a meeting is ridiculous. The person who provides information and decides what information to provide is solely the persona responsible for freedom of information. The request for information related to private meetings with Elovitch and those listed in the prime minister's diary, and not social meetings attended by many people at which Elovitch was present."
"The prime minister has never visited Elovitch's house," the prime Minister's Office added. "The Bezeq-Yes merger was a complicated procedure over many years. The process was led by the Israel Antitrust Authority and its professional staff. The prime minister was not involved in any way, shape or form in their decisions, did not change anything and at most formerly ratified the recommendations of the professional echelon."
A spokesman for Elovitch said there is nothing new in the reports of seven meetings with Netanyahu over three years. "It will become clear that attempts to link one of the meetings held two days before approval of the Bezeq-Yes merger by the Antitrust Authority are groundless. The merger was a complex process taking five years as well as a hearing lasting five months before approval of the merger. It is groundless and detached from reality to think that a meeting held two days before approval would cause a change in the decision. And it is known that the prime minister has no influence on the regulator's decision."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 7, 2018
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