PM Under Caution: Benjamin Netanyahu’s former media advisor, Nir Hefetz, signed a state’s witness agreement Monday, joining two other close associates of the prime minister who have turned state’s witnesses recently—Ari Harow and Shlomo Filber.
As part of the agreement, Hefetz will receive full immunity. He won’t serve time in prison and won’t be required to pay a fine.
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As first revealed by Ynet, Hefetz arrived at the Lahav 433 offices in Lod on Monday morning for a meeting with police and Israel Securities Authority investigators. Hefetz provided the police with all the information available to him as part of an initial testimony which would not be used against him.
As part of the agreement, Hefetz is expected to incriminate Netanyahu both in the illicit gifts affair (Case 1000) and in the Bezeq affair (Case 4000). He will also testify in Case 1270, an attempt to bribe District Court President judge Hila Gerstl with appointment to attorney general in return for tossing out a case against the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu.
Hefetz’s attorney, Yaron Kostelitz, announced his resignation following the dramatic development.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s associates offered the following response: “When there is something, there is no need for a single state’s witness. When there’s nothing, even a thousand state’s witnesses won’t help. The unstoppable pursuit of state’s witnesses is the best proof that there is nothing and there will be nothing.”
Hefetz, who was detained for two weeks in Case 4000, was released from custody Sunday and placed under house arrest.
Although the police already have a state’s witness agreement with Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, they realized Hefetz would be able to make a significant contribution to the case. They called Adv. Sofer and arranged for him to meet with Hefetz several times. The negotiations are reportedly in advanced stages.
Another associate of Prime Minister Netanyahu, his former chief of staff Ari Harow, signed a state’s witness agreement in Cases 1000 and 2000.
Minister Gila Gamliel, asked by Ynet whether the talks with Hefetz would send the political system into an even bigger tailspin, said Monday: “We are no longer excited by state’s witnesses in the criminal proceeding. In terms of evidence, a state’s witness holds a relatively lower weight than a regular witness. We have to wait patiently for the attorney general to have all the considerations before his eyes before receiving a more accurate picture and knowing where we are headed.”
Hefetz was arrested about two weeks ago on suspicion of taking a bribe and obstruction of justice. One of the court hearings revealed he had already provided the ISA with a detailed testimony in late December and was asked about his ties to Shlomo Filber and Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications company.
Police suspect that Bezeq received benefits worth about NIS 1 billion from the Communications Ministry in return to favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family in the Walla! website, which is owned by Elovitch.
In recent years, Hefetz has been considered one of the confidants of Netanyahu and his wife Sara, often defending the family to the media. He served as the family’s media advisor from 2014 to 2017, working primarily with the prime minister’s wife.
During that period, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira uncovered irregularities in the administration of the Prime Minister’s Residence, leading police to launch a criminal investigation.
A source working at the residence at that time told Calcalist that Hefetz “assisted Sara in withstanding the media pressure and served as a personal bodyguard of sorts to her. He invested a lot more work than would have been expected of him as the prime minister’s spokesman.”
Hefetz was one of the six people questioned simultaneously in the Bezeq affair on Friday, along with Prime Minster Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Elovitch and his wife Iris, and Eitan Tzafrir, a former chief of staff at the Communications Ministry.
By Ynet News