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Netanyahu trial: Defense says Berger worked for Bezeq competitor

CM 27/10/2021


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The defense in the public corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday alleged that former Communications Ministry director-general and key prosecution witness Avi Berger tried to undermine Bezeq to help his former employer, the Partner Communications Company.
Trying to flip the narrative on the prosecution, defense lawyer Jacques Chen told the Jerusalem District Court that Netanyahu had not fired Berger to further a bribery scheme with his client, Shaul Elovitch.
Rather, he said the former prime minister fired Berger on May 17, 2015 for trying to improperly promote Partner’s interests over Bezeq’s.
On Tuesday, the prosecution used Berger’s testimony to present its view that Netanyahu fired Berger in order to install his close associate Shlomo Filber, who then shifted all ministry policies in a problematic fashion to help Elovitch’s Bezeq.
Filber approved a merger between Bezeq and YES which Berger and former minister Gilad Erdan had blocked.

 Former Director General of the Ministry of Communications Avi Berger arrives for her testimony in the case against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Former Director General of the Ministry of Communications Avi Berger arrives for her testimony in the case against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on criminal allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, at the District Court in Jerusalem, October 27, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

He also halted and significantly delayed reforms backed by Berger and Erdan to make the telecommunications industry more competitive with the goal of lowering prices, improving customer service and jumping toward much faster Internet speeds.
The prosecution has claimed that all of these reforms were achieved years later than originally planned because of Netanyahu’s stalling them to ingratiate himself with Elovitch in exchange for control of relevant coverage with the Walla media site, also owned by Elovitch.
While Chen cross-examined Berger, he brought out that Berger had worked as Partner’s deputy CEO for four-and-a-half years.
He also got Berger to admit that the former ministry official did not mention this to the police in his early statements to them, downplaying it for a short side-mention at a later date.
Along similar lines, Chen got Berger to admit that part of how he got Erdan to appoint him as director-general of the ministry was through the lobbying of Eli Kamir.
Chen noted that Kamir was a lobbyist for Partner, essentially arguing that Partner had aided Berger in getting his job so that he would undermine Bezeq to the benefit of Partner.
Berger claimed that he did not know that Kamir was a lobbyist for Partner when Kamir aided him in increasing his chances with Erdan.
Further, Berger said that blocking the Bezeq-YES merger was a policy decided on by Erdan, not him, and that the entire office supported Erdan both on this and on reforms to make the telecommunications industry more competitive.
MOREOVER, HE said the reforms dated back to a ministry decision in 2012 and had been pushed by Moshe Kahlon as minister, even before Erdan or Berger were in office.
Put differently, Berger acknowledged his connections to Partner, but argued that he pressed for reforms to the industry as part of ongoing universally agreed-upon policy by non-political ministry experts.
Questioned privately about Berger’s defense of his actions during a court recess, Chen said that Berger was the director-general and had forced the hand of others in the office against Bezeq and in favor of partner.
Another major point Chen made in cross-examination related to a letter which Netanyahu sent to get the ministry in general, and specifically to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, to approve the Bezeq-YES merger.
The prosecution has presented this letter and actions by Netanyahu messengers as proof that he pressured ministry legal adviser Dona Neufeld and council officials into approving the merger.
However, Chen used cross-examination to propose a different narrative.
Chen got Berger to admit that Erdan had never issued a formal final document blocking the Bezeq-YES merger or conditioning the merger on Bezeq being more cooperative with reforms to the industry.
In fact, Chen elicited from Berger that Erdan’s move to condition potential approval of the merger on Bezeq cooperation with reforms was only verbal and informal.
Further, he said that Berger and ministry deputy director-general Haran Levaot ignored five letters from YES over several months asking for an update on their request for the merger.
Finally, Chen got Berger to acknowledge that he never mentioned Erdan’s conditions in the one in-person meeting that Berger held with Netanyahu.
In Chen’s narrative, Netanyahu issued his letter without knowledge that there was any counter-policy from Erdan and based on the idea that the ministry was inexplicably ignoring giving YES any answer to its request, whether positive, negative or a maybe.
If Chen can convince the court that Netanyahu did not know about Erdan’s conditions, it could undermine the entire narrative that the former prime minister knowingly interfered problematically to help Elovitch and Bezeq in exchange for control of coverage at Walla.
In contrast, the prosecution will later present evidence from other documents and witnesses to prove that Netanyahu knew that the whole expert-level of the ministry opposed the merger and that they all supported the reforms to force Bezeq to compete with others more.
Next, the prosecution will assert that Netanyahu used Filber to pressure ministry officials to approve his problematic wishes – ironically, exactly what the defense is accusing Berger of doing.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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