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Netanyahu's son to be questioned in telecom corruption graft: report

photo prise le 18 mars 2015 du Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu et de son fils Yair à Jérusalem-Est
THOMAS COEX (AFP/Archives)
Hefetz is the third Netanyahu confidant set to turn against him amid the creeping corruption investigations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair influenced his father's key decisions to the detriment of the premiere as well as to state security, former confidant and media adviser, Nir Hefetz, reportedly said after agreeing to turn state’s witness on Monday in the ongoing corruption probe dubbed ‘Case 4000’.

Yair Netanyahu will be questioned in the ongoing corruption probe coined ‘Case 4000’, according to a report by the Israel Television News Company on Monday evening.

While a gag order has been placed on his testimony, Hefetz told sources close to him that Yair influences the prime minister's big decisions to the point of compromising the security of the state.

"I admire Bibi [Netanyahu], but he falls under the spell of his wife and son -- they direct him even in state matters," Hefetz reportedly said, adding that "Bibi, inspired by and under the influence of his son Yair, made decisions that harmed Israel's national interests and the security of the state."

The prime minister's former confidant and media adviser turned state witness on Monday in the case involving telecom giant Bezeq and Walla news site, explained that he left Netanyahu's side because Yair was harming the prime minister and the country.

Hefetz's decision to become state's witness makes him the third of Netanyahu’s close associates to turn against him as the prime minister is basking in the global spotlight at the AIPAC conference in Washington.

Following his meeting with Trump at the White House on Monday, the prime minister responded to the claims attributed to his former aide regarding his wife and son, deriding them as "nonsense".

"For more than seven years, Nir Hefetz has been completely uninformed of intelligence, political, or security information and decision-making in these areas. Therefore the things attributed to him are baseless," Netanyahu added. 

The state's deal with Hefetz will see him hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife Sara and offer evidence not only in Case 4000, but also in a bevvy of other corruption cases bedeviling the government, Haaretz reported.

Ynet reported that in exchange, Hefetz will received full immunity from prison time or monetary penalties. Neither report cited sources.

Sources close to Netanyahu said that if the police had any evidence against him, they wouldn't need "even one" state witness.

"The endless race after witnesses is the best proof that there is nothing -- and there will be nothing."

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

After 15 days in police custody, Hefetz was released to house arrest by the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Sunday along with Shaul Elovitch, former chairman of the Bezeq telecommunications company. Both men were among several suspects arrest last week embroiled in the snowballing investigation.

Early Monday afternoon local time a joint statement from Israel Police and the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) confirmed that on Monday, an agreement was signed between the two organizations and Hefetz.

Case 4000 focuses on allegations that the owner of Israeli telecom giant Bezeq and Walla news website, Shaul Elovitch, allegedly received concessions in favor of Bezeq in return for positive coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

Hefetz is alleged to have acted as a messenger between Netanyahu and the Bezeq-Walla bosses.

In a separate case he was implicated in an attempt to bribe a retired judge to drop a case against the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu over alleged misuse of public funds.

Shlomo Filber, a former director general of the Communications Ministry and longtime Netanyahu associate, agreed to turn state witness at the end of February. He was suspected of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch in order to promote the regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq in Case 4000. It was agreed that in exchange for providing useful information he would only face a disciplinary hearing and avoid criminal indictment altogether.

The prime minister has refuted the barrage of accusations thrown at him and has insisted that all his decisions “were made in businesslike fashion and based on professional factors, professional testimonies and legal counsel.”

Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harrow was the first confidant to turn state’s witness last year. He agreed to provide information about two other cases dubbed ‘Case 1000’ and ‘Case 2000’ in return for a more lenient punishment pertaining to another unscrupulous business deal.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Case 1000 centers on suspicions that Netanyahu received gifts such as expensive champagne and cigars from wealthy businessmen including film producer Arnon Milchan and Australian casino mogul James Packer, in exchange for favorable government treatment.

In Case 2000, police are reportedly examining conversations with newspaper proprietor Noni Mozes, leaked excerpts of which were sensationally broadcast on Israeli television earlier this year, which revealed an alleged quid pro quo' arrangement with the Yedioth Ahronoth publisher to limit circulation of the newspaper's main rival in exchange for more favorable coverage.

On Friday Netanyahu and his wife were grilled in their home for the eighth time over the allegations.

The cases have fueled speculation he could be forced to step down or call an early election but Netanyahu has maintained that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

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