An Israeli media tycoon admitted yesterday that he provided favourable media coverage to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, because he "didn't want to annoy the PM."
Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli media giant Bezeq Telecommunications, told police that he personally intervened to slant coverage in favour of Netanyahu on the Israeli website Walla News, which he owns. Police suspect that, in return, the Israeli PM "advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Elovitch," the Times of Israel reported.
"I could not ignore the requests of Sara [Netanyahu's wife] and the rest of the family," Elovitch told investigators, according to transcripts reported on Israel's Channel 10 News and cited by Haaretz. "I did not want to annoy the prime minister. He's my regulator." Elovitch was also recorded as saying: "What did you expect? That I'd ignore these requests? But I never expected anything in return. I didn't speak with Netanyahu about regulatory benefits or about any bribery deal."
According to Haaretz, Netanyahu was also questioned at his home yesterday, with a statement released in his name claiming, "Prime Minister Netanyahu never made a deal with Elovitch in return for favourable coverage. On the contrary, over the years Prime Minister Netanyahu has been covered consistently in a hostile manner on the website Walla." This was the tenth time that Netanyahu has been questioned over corruption and fraud by Israeli police.
The Bezeq case, otherwise known as case 4000, is just one of multiple corruption probes currently embroiling the Israeli PM. Other cases include Case 1000, in which Sara Netanyahu was accused of receiving "lavish and inappropriate" gifts from wealthy businessmen and paying bribes to a media mogul in return for favourable coverage. Sara has also recently been charged with using state funds to order $100,000 of catered meals to the Netanyahu residence, a charge which could see her face up to five years behind bars if convicted.
Other probes include Case 2000, in which Benjamin Netanyahu faces allegations of negotiating a deal for favourable media coverage with Arnon Mozes, publisher of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Netanyahu allegedly offered to restrict Mozes' key competitor publication, Israel Hayom, in return for such coverage.
The Israeli leader has also been linked to another fraud case, Case 3000, in which Israeli police are investigating a $2 billion deal to buy submarines. A witness told investigators that Netanyahu's lawyer, David Shimron, would have been paid $9 million if he ensured the deal went ahead. Netanyahu himself is not under investigation in the case.