September 2, 2019 / 12:47 PM / 2 months ago

Bezeq to study implications of possible indictments of former officials

JERUSALEM, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Bezeq Israel Telecom said on Monday it was not yet able to assess the implications of possible indictments of former senior officials on the company and its financial results.

Israel’s state prosecutor announced plans on Sunday to indict Shaul Elovitch, Bezeq’s former controlling shareholder and chairman, for fraud and misconduct, pending a pre-indictment hearing.

“The company does not have complete information regarding the investigation, materials and evidence available to authorities on this matter,” Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom group, said in a regulatory filing in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s securities regulator in 2017 said it was investigating suspicions that Elovitch, a family friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had meddled in the 2015 merger between Bezeq and its satellite TV unit Yes for personal financial gain.

“We are sure that after receiving the investigation materials and learning them, we will be able to present adequate arguments before the prosecutors office that will make them change their minds,” said Elovitch’s lawyer, Jacques Chen.

Former Bezeq CEO Stella Handler will also be indicted, along with a number of other former Bezeq and Yes executives, the former communications ministry director general and officials from SpaceCom, pending hearings, the justice ministry said. A date for the hearings has not yet been set.

Handler could not immediately be reached for comment, but has previously denied allegations of wrongdoing related to the regulator’s investigations.

Netanyahu is scheduled for a pre-indictment hearing on three cases next month, including allegations he attempted to influence news coverage on a website owned by Bezeq in exchange for favourable policy measures for Bezeq. Netanyahu has denied the allegations.

SpaceCom, which was controlled by Elovitch and supplied satellite services to Yes, said it planned to study the investigative materials and respond to the allegations.

Shares in Bezeq, once a strong state-run monopoly but whose various units now face stiff competition, were down 0.9% in afternoon trade. They are down 40% this year. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Mark Potter)

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