Bibi trial: prosecution sets the stage for Nir Hefetz

The state prosecutor’s office on Monday set the stage for next week’s highly successful testimony by Nir Hefetz in the public corruption trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the Jerusalem District Court.

To frame the testimony of Hefetz, a former senior Netanyahu adviser turned state witness, the prosecution called on former competition authority official and lobbyist Dror Shtraum to testify about the instability of telecom giant Bezeq in the period. November-December 2014.

In case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla case, the prosecution wants to show that Netanyahu and the owner of Bezeq and Walla, Shaul Elovitch, conspired in a media bribery scheme.

The plan appears to have helped the former prime minister with media coverage and helped Elovitch both escape financial disaster and reap an estimated NIS 1.8 billion worth through favorable government policies.

Shtraum testified that Bezeq was under heavy financial pressure in late 2014 to gain approval for the Bezeq-YES merger and that the telco was deeply concerned that without speedy approval of the merger by the government, the approval of The relevant company directories could expire and fall. through.

Corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (credit: OREN BEN HAKOON / POOL)

According to the Case 4000 indictment, in July 2014, Elovitch had lobbied for Netanyahu to help provide government approval for the sale of Yes from Eurocom to Bezeq, all companies in which Elovitch had interests, which put him in a conflict of interest.

Then Communications Minister Avi Berger was making the sale conditional on Bezeq undertaking various market reforms that the ministry had demanded, as well as maintaining various financial walls to limit the dangers of the Elovitch conflict.

Hefetz is expected to testify next week that a few days before a major November 28, 2014 meeting between Netanyahu and Elovitch, he showcased the former prime minister’s proposals that Elovitch gave Hefetz to gut Berger’s terms.

Next, Hefetz will likely testify that Netanyahu requested that he carefully smuggle Elovitch into the meeting with him in a way that covered up that they had met.

Both Hefetz and the former Director General of the Communications Ministry turned state witness, Shlomo Filber, will likely testify that on December 9, 2014, Netanyahu appointed Eitan Tzafrir as Chief of Staff of the Communications Ministry to act as his long arm.

Netanyahu subsequently met with Berger and ordered him to comply with Elovitch’s wishes regarding the Bezeq-Yes merger, Berger has testified.

Eventually, Netanyahu fired Berger and replaced him with Filber to carry out Elovitch’s wishes regarding Bezeq, the indictment alleged.

Despite scoring a few points in setting the stage for Hefetz, there were doubts as to whether the prosecution should have brought Shtraum in as a witness.

On cross-examination, the defense managed to get Shtraum to say that despite government policy blocking a Bezeq-YES merger dating back to 2006, by 2014 conditions had changed radically with other competitors already in the market for the telecommunications.

Shtraum also supported the defense’s attack on Berger’s policy of ignoring many letters from Bezeq and YES regarding the merger.

Berger has said that Bezeq and YES were aware of the conditions for the merger and were themselves ignorant of those conditions with their many letters, which meant they had no reason to respond.

But Shtraum suggested that responding and reiterating the conditions for a merger to the parties requesting it was standard practice.

In a strange moment, the defense tried to get Shtraum to declare himself an expert witness to attack the prosecution’s narrative regarding the Bezeq-YES merger and the prosecution tried to convince the court to ignore everything he said (although he was a witness for the prosecution) beyond his direct will. factual exposure to Bezeq’s vulnerability at the end of 2014.

The prosecution had even more problems with former EUROCOM Executive Vice President Felix Cohen.

Cohen had told police during his pre-trial questioning that Bezeq was financially unstable in 2015 and that immediately after the Bezeq-YES merger, NIS 900 million was handed over to various banks to pay off debts.

Although the defense agreed that these statements be included in the court record, upon cross-examination, the defense found that Cohen was very beneficial as he contradicted these assessments.

While he did not back down from his statement about the 900 million NIS, he tried to downplay its importance, saying that it was not unusual for a giant company like Bezeq and that the company’s financial problems occurred later when one of its main satellites failed. .

The prosecution framed Cohen’s statements in the cross-examination as an attempt to help his former company and boss, while when he testified to the police, he knew that he was being tried for possible criminal charges and therefore told the whole truth.

Hefetz is scheduled to begin testifying on November 16, and Netanyahu himself may attend the hearing, which would be the first time he has attended since April.

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