Israel Police today published its summary of Case 4000, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of accepted a bribe from Shaul Elovitch, former owner of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ) and the Walla! website. The case involves alleged bribery, fraud, and breach of trust by Netanyahu and Elovitch.
The primary suspicion is that the prime minister took a bribe to intervene in regulatory decisions in order to benefit Elovitch and the Bezeq group, thereby creating a conflict of interest, while simultaneously directly and indirectly demanding interference with content on Walla! to Netanyahu's benefit.
The affair began with an investigation of the Bezeq group by the Israel Securities Authority. This investigation uncovered substantial evidence pointing to suspicions of improper conduct and interference by Ministry of Communications director general Shlomo Filber in the affairs of Bezeq and Elovitch with respect to various regulatory questions. Filber allegedly concealed this activity from professional and legal staff in the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications, and the Ministry of Justice, while giving preference to Elovitch's interests over those of the public.
After sending the Bezeq group case to the State Attorney's Office, material evidence was discovered in the course of completing the probe by Securities Authorities investigators. The State Attorney's Office including its taxation and economic unit, recommended to the Attorney General that the investigation be expanded, including an investigation against the prime minister. The Attorney General accepted the recommendation and ordered the commencement of a joint investigation by the police and the Securities Authority.
The investigations and intelligence branch head and the head of the Lahav 433 unit decided to have the National Economic Crime Unit carry out the investigation, closely accompanied by a team of lawyers from the taxation and economic unit.
The suspicions required a thorough, complex, and difficult investigation by a joint team from the taxation and economic unit and the Securities Authority.
The investigation included hundreds of actions. State's witness agreements were signed with two suspects, Filber and Nir Hefetz, who revealed improper conduct by Netanyahu and Elovitch in two key areas: bias in media coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits.
The investigation found that the prime minister had promoted Elovitch's affairs in regulation, among other things in the merger between Bezeq and DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. (YES), contingent on favorable coverage on Walla!
13 suspects were questioned under caution during this investigation, which lasted from February to November 2018. Some of them are suspected of involvement in the bribery mechanism, others of abetting bribery. Some of the suspects were arrested for various periods, as required by the investigation.
A summary of the evidence and the suspicions:
The evidence in the case indicates that relations between the prime minister and Elovitch involved bribery.
The findings show that the prime minister and his associates plainly and continually intervened in 2012-2017, sometimes on a daily basis, in content published on the Wall! news website, and sought to influence the appointment of editors and correspondents on the website, using the connections they had with Shaul and Iris Elovitch.
The intervention by the prime minister and his associates in the content and appointment of officeholders at Walla! was designed to promote his personal interests through the publication of favorable stories and photographs, removal of content critical of the prime minister and his family, etc.
The findings also show that Elovitch and his wife influenced what was published on Walla! in exchange for the prime minister's regulatory decisions in favor of Elovitch and the Bezeq group for the purpose of continuing to benefit the interests of the Bezeq group, especially its controlling shareholder.
Case 4000 summary: Findings and conclusions
With the conclusion of the investigation, the police and the Securities Authority believe that the evidence is sufficient to substantiate the suspicions against the main parties involved in the affair, as follows:
* Sufficient evidence was found that Netanyahu committed bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and aggravated fraud.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Sara Netanyahu took part in bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and obstruction of justice.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Shaul Elovitch committed bribery, obstruction of justice, reporting violations under the Securities Law, and offenses under the Prohibition on Money Laundering Law.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Bezeq senior executive Amikam Shorer abetted bribery and committed corporation executive offenses, and offenses under the Prohibition on Money Laundering Law.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Israel Bonds VP business development Zeev Rubinstein, a businessperson close to the Netanyahu and Elovitch families, mediated and abetted bribery.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Bezeq CEO Stella Handler committed corporate fraud and breach of trust and reporting violations under the Securities Law.
* Sufficient evidence was found that Or Elovitch committed corporate fraud and breach of trust and reporting violations under the Securities Law.
* No sufficient evidence that Eli Kamir committed any offenses was found.
* No sufficient evidence that Adv. Eitan Tzafrir committed any offenses was found.
* No sufficient evidence that Yair Netanyahu committed any offenses was found.
Elovitch, Netanyahu, and the other suspects in the affair deny the offenses attributed to them. After being questioned recently, Netanyahu claimed that Case 4000 had "petered out."
Netanyahu and Elovitch are suspects. The legal procedure is still in its initial stage, and they are innocent until proven guilty.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 2, 2018
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