Former Netanyahu Spokesman Signs State’s Witness Deal in Corruption Probe

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Nir Hefetz. (Flash90)

A former spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu signed a state’s witness deal on Monday in one of the corruption cases revolving around the prime minister.

Nir Hefetz, a suspect in a case involving alleged regulatory favors granted to Bezeq, had agreed to give evidence for the prosecution.

“[Sunday] night, a state’s witness deal was signed between the Investigations, Intelligence and Commerce Monitoring Divisions at the Israel Securities Authority and the Police National Economic Crime Unit at Lahav 433 and Nir Hefetz,” a police statement read.

Sources close to Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted with contempt to the agreement. “When there is something, there is no need for even one state’s witness, and when there is no case, even a thousand state witnesses will not help,” they said. “The constant race after state’s witnesses is the best proof that there is nothing – and there will be nothing.”

Hefetz was detained for two weeks in the Bezeq case, known as Case 4000, and denied all the suspicions against him. He will be represented throughout the affair by Yaron Kostelitz, who even appeared Sunday in court and agreed with the police and the Israel Securities Authority on the release of Hefetz.

But beneath the surface it turns out that the ISA operated in a secret channel parallel to the criminal procedure. Last week, senior criminal defense lawyer Ilan Sofer, who holds excellent contacts with the ISA, was the architect of an agreement to the state that he managed to obtain for Mickey Ganor in another corruption case.

Despite the fact that Shlomo Filber had already signed a state’s witness agreement in Case 4000, at Lahav 433 they realized that Hefetz could contribute greatly to the investigation of the case and therefore they summoned Sofer. The investigators arranged for several meetings between Sofer and Hefetz, and the deal was signed Sunday night.

In recent years, Hefetz was considered one of the prime minister’s and his wife Sarah’s trustees, and he has often defended the family in various media incidents. In the years 2014-2017, he served as communications advisor to the Netanyahu family, and especially to the wife of the prime minister.

In the Bezeq case, which mainly focuses on the Netanyahu family and the Walla News website, in exchange for benefits to Bezeq at the Communications Ministry, the police determined that Hefetz and others “acted blatantly to disrupt investigation procedures and make it difficult to gather evidence in the investigation.” Hefetz was also arrested in Case 1270 – he allegedly suggested to Justice Hila Gerstel that she be appointed attorney general in return for closing another case in which Sarah Netanyahu is involved.

Hefetz would not be the first major Netanyahu aide to turn state’s witness and testify against him.

In Case 4000, Shlomo Filber, as part of a plea deal, has accused the prime minister of directing a complex media bribery scheme.

Former Netanyahu chief-of-staff Ari Harow also turned state’s witness to assist the prosecution in Case 1000 and in Case 2000.

Hefetz and Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch were released from police custody by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, but were ordered to remain under house arrest until March 13.