The wife and son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are being investigated for corruption as part of a case which sees the official accused of granting favours to a media giant in return for favourable coverage, it emerged yesterday.
During a court hearing yesterday, an Israeli police official revealed for the first time that Netanyahu's wife, Sara, is suspected of involvement in what has been dubbed Case 4000. Previously, only Benjamin Netanyahu had officially been under investigation, which alleges that he granted favours to Israeli telecom giant Bezeq in return for favourable media coverage by Walla News, which belongs to Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch.
The police official also revealed that the prime minister's son, Yair Netanyahu, is being investigated for direct involvement in the Bezeq deal. It is thought that both Sara and Yair could have acted as Netanyahu's emissaries to Elovitch to persuade him to provide favourable coverage of the PM, the Jerusalem Post reported. The Times of Israel added that "in light of [Sara and Yair's] alleged involvement, the two could be indicted for bribery even though they are not public officials."
The Netanyahus have vehemently denied the revelations, quipping that "we also found a positive article about our dog Kaya on the Walla website. Kaya is lucky she passed away before she could be added to the circle of suspects." The Netanyahus' statement added that "coverage of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Walla site was and has remained negative on a regular basis."
Both Sara and Yair have previously been questioned in Case 4000. In March, Israeli police questioned Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence while his wife and son were required to attend the national fraud unit headquarters in Lod (Lydda), southeast of Tel Aviv. It was the second time that month that Sara had been questioned.
The Netanyahus are no strangers to corruption charges. In June, Sara was charged with fraud for the alleged misuse of state funds to order catered meals to the PM's official residence. The indictment charged that Sara fraudulently obtained 360,000 shekels ($100,000) for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations prohibiting the practice if a cook is employed at the home. She was charged with fraud, breach of trust and aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods and could face up to five years' imprisonment if found guilty. Her trial is slated to begin in October, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been embroiled in several other corruption scandals and is currently under investigation in three other cases, named Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 3000 respectively. Under Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of involvement in the 2015 sale of a TV channel to Arnon Mozes, publisher of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. It is alleged that Netanyahu tried to negotiate a deal with Mozes, offering legislation that would impede the activities of Mozes' rival paper, Israel Hayom, in return for more favourable media coverage of the prime minister and his policies.
During his tenure as prime minister, Netanyahu has also served as Israel's Communications Minister. In February 2017 Netanyahu was forced to resign his communications position as a result of the criminal investigations into his collusion with numerous media outlets.