Nir Hefetz, a former top media adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s family, has turned state’s witness in the Bezeq corruption probe, in a dramatic development that could strengthen the evidence against the prime minister in the quickly ballooning case.
“A state’s witness agreement was signed last night between the Israel Securities Authority’s Investigations, Intelligence and Market Surveillance Department and Israel Police’s national anti-fraud unit Lahav 433 and Nir Hefetz,” police said in a statement on Monday.
Hefetz joins Shlomo Filber, the former director-general of the Communications Ministry and a longtime Netanyahu confidant, who also signed a deal last month to turn state’s witness and possibly incriminate Netanyahu in the affair.
A lawyer for Hefetz met several times last week with senior police officials to discuss details of the agreement, the Ynet news site reported earlier on Monday.
Hefetz was released to house arrest Sunday morning, after 15 days in police custody, along with the majority shareholder in the Bezeq telecommunications company, Shaul Elovitch, another high-profile suspect in the case.
The Case 4000 investigation involves suspicions that Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant fawning coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him.
Hefetz will also testify against Netnayahu in the so-called Case 1000 corruption probe, the Ynet news site reported.
Ilan Sofer, a senior criminal lawyer who previously led to another suspect — Miki Ganor — turning state’s witness in separate case linked to Netanyahu, Case 3000, has been secretly working with police and the Israel Securities Authority in parallel with the ongoing investigation, according to the report.
Sofer did not immediately respond to a Times of Israel request for comment.
Despite Filber having already turned state’s witness, investigators were said to believe that Hefetz could contribute significantly to the investigation and have therefore attempted to recruit him as well.
Hefetz’s current lead counsel, Yaron Kostelitz, told Ynet he did not represent state’s witnesses, and he has resigned.
Netanyahu served as communications minister from November 2014 to February 2017. During that time, Walla’s coverage notably changed to favor the Netanyahu family, and Bezeq was given permission, among other things, to buy the satellite cable provider Yes, overriding antitrust issues, and to renege on its commitment to lease out its infrastructure to telecom competitors, so they could provide competing fixed line and internet services.
Officials also told Hadashot TV on Friday that suspicions against Netanyahu in the investigation are more serious than the accusations in the previous cases, 1000 and 2000 — in both of which police recommended he be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery.
Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s chief of staff for a year from mid-2014, last year turned state’s witness and agreed to provide information about those two cases in return for a lighter punishment for separate charges against him relating to an alleged conflict of interest over a business he held.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in any of the cases.