Jerusalem: Two associates of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been remanded in custody amid a corruption investigation.
The Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court has extended the arrests of Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel’s giant telecom company Bezeq, and Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s confidant and former media adviser.
They will stay under arrest at least until Monday, the court said on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.
Elovitch is suspected of being part of a bribery deal, in which Bezeq received regulatory and financial benefits from the Communications Ministry, which Netanyahu headed between 2014 and 2017 in addition to his capacity as prime minister.
In return, Walla, a news site controlled by Elovitch, allegedly refrained from criticizing Netanyahu and gave him and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, positive coverage.
Hefetz is a suspect in the Bezeq affair, called by the police “case 4000.” He was also charged in a separated case with bribery, in which he sought to throw out a criminal case against Sara Netanyahu, said the police.
Also on Thursday, the court extended the arrest of Shlomo Filber, who was until recently one of the closest associates of Netanyahu.
Filber, who served as the director general of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, became a state witness against Netanyahu on Wednesday. Under the terms of his deal, he will stay in custody until he finishes his testimony.
The media reported on Thursday that Filber told his investigators that he acted under direct orders from Netanyahu.
The recent arrests came only a week after the police said there was sufficient evidence to charge Netanyahu with corruption in two other cases.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing, saying the allegations are part of a witch-hunt by the media and “the left.”
His coalition has remained stable for now, with his major partners, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party and the centre-right Kulanu, saying Netanyahu will be required to step down only if the general attorney decides to indict him.