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Israeli police name Netanyahu confidants arrested in graft probe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by AFP)

Israeli police have revealed the names of two close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who were arrested at the weekend as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe.

The police identified the pair as Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu spokesman, and Shlomo Filber, the ex-director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu.

The two are suspected of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel’s Bezeq telecom company in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu at the Walla news site.

Five others central figures at Bezeq, including the company’s controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, have also been arrested on suspicion of giving bribes.

Hefetz, Filber and Elovitch will all remain in custody until Thursday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

“As part of the investigation, suspicions accumulated on felonies concerning ethics, fraud, money laundering and securities violations, conducted over extended periods of time, frequently and systematically as part of relationships between Bezeq executives and public servants and their associates,” the Israeli police said on Tuesday.

The detentions came as part of Case 4000, which revolves around the alleged quid-pro-quo relations between Netanyahu and Elovitch.

The Israeli premier has not yet been named as a suspect in the case but is expected to be questioned.

The new probe comes days after the Israeli police told the attorney general that there was sufficient evidence for Netanyahu to be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Netanyahu is suspected of having received luxury gifts from businessmen overseas in Case 1000.

He is also being investigated in Case 2000 for an alleged media bribery scheme to help Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper against its competitor Israel Hayom in return for favorable coverage of the premier.

Another bribery scandal, called the “submarine affair” or Case 3000, also involves Netanyahu’s associates. 

Israelis have been holding weekly protests to demand Netanyahu’s resignation over the corruption scandals, but the prime minister has described the events as part of efforts meant to topple him “at any cost.”

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