"The evidence against all those involved in the new affair of Walla! and the Ministry of Communications, concerning bribery connections that took place, is very strong," a source familiar with what is known as Case 4000 and its latest ramifications told "Globes" last night. The allegation in the case is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received favorable coverage of the Walla! News website in return for promoting the interests of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ), which owns Walla!, in the Ministry of Communications. The source said that although the investigation is only in its third day, the suspicions against those involved are already looking well-grounded.
Last night, the gag order was lifted on reporting the names of those arrested in the affair. The chief figure is Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, alongside his wife Iris and their son Or. Co-starring with them is suspended Ministry of Communications director general Shlomo Filber, and the newest name in Case 4000, Netanyahu's media consultant Nir Hefetz. All have been remanded in custody until Monday.
Two other suspects in the affair, Bezeq CEO Stella Handler and the company's strategy and business development manager Amikam Shorer, have been remanded until Wednesday.
The prime minister is expected to be questioned under caution in the affair shortly. Conduct of the case is being overseen by Adv. Liat Ben-Ari of the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office Taxation and Economics Division, who is also overseeing Case 1000, Case 2000, and Case 3000, which also involve, among other things, allegations that Netanyahu received bribes from businesspeople. Case 4000 began as an Israel Securities Authority investigation into the deal whereby satellite broadcaster Yes, which like Bezeq was controlled by Shaul Elovitch's Eurocom, was merged into Bezeq, a deal that required Ministry of Communications approval, and that greatly benefitted Elovitch.
A statement on behalf of Elovitch said, "Shaul Elovitch completely denies the allegations against him. We suggest that people should be patient and not rush to conclusions. We are sure that when matters become clear, it will be apparent that he committed no offence." Filber's lawyer said that "he has nothing to contribute to the investigation."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 20, 2018
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