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Israel: house arrest for relatives of Netanyahu

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – GALI TIBBON – | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 25, 2018 in Jerusalem

A former adviser to the Israeli prime minister and a businessman were placed under house arrest on Sunday after 14 days of detention for a fraud case involving Benjamin Netanyahu, police said.

A Tel Aviv court released Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu family advisor, and Shaul Elovich, the businessman controlling the Bezeq telecom group, after a lengthy interrogation of the two men, Mr. Netanyahu, his marries Sara and other suspects.

Police seek to find out if the Netanyahu couple sought to secure favorable coverage from Walla, Elovich’s news site and property, in exchange for government favors that could have yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in Bezeq, says the press, fed constant flows by leaks to the unknown source.

Hefetz is suspected of serving as an intermediary between Benjamin Netanyahu and the officials of Bezeq and Walla. He is also suspected of attempting to bribe a retired judge to block an investigation of Sara Netanyahu over alleged misuse of public funds.

Police did not disclose the details of the investigation, but the Israeli media reported Friday that it conducted simultaneous, carefully orchestrated interrogations of six suspects in various locations to prevent them from coordinating their testimony.

According to the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, while Benjamin Netanyahu was interrogated for five hours in his official residence in Jerusalem, his wife was questioned in Lod (center) in the offices of Lahav 443, the Israeli FBI.

Elsewhere in the same building, Nir Hefetz, Shaul Elovitch and his wife Iris were also interviewed, as well as a former Ministry of Communications official whose name is being blacked out.

Mr. Netanyahu, who has been questioned eight times in various cases in the past, was for the first time in the Bezeq case.

The case, which opened in 2017, erupted on February 18 in all its dangerousness for the Prime Minister, with the arrest of Mr. Elovitch and six other people, including two close associates of Mr. Netanyahu.

This is one of at least six investigations directly or indirectly related to Netanyahu, who held until 2017 the Communications portfolio as well.

The succession of hard knocks calls into question the future of the Prime Minister, in power for almost 12 years in total and without apparent rival.

Although he has not yet been formally implicated in any case, the police on 13 February recommended that he be indicted in two of them, and tightened the grip on his entourage.

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