Netanyahu confronted with billionaire’s testimony during police grilling

The testimony adds to the long list of interrogations that have taken place in the last few months.

March 7, 2017 12:46
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Milchan

Netanyahu and Milchan. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confronted with new testimony from Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan during police questioning on Monday.

Police investigators from the Lahav 433 National Fraud Unit met with Milchan at his home in Los Angeles over the weekend and obtained the testimony, which deals with allegations that Netanyahu accepted illegal gifts from Milchan, termed Case 1,000.

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Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017

Milchan's weekend testimony was originally reported by Walla News on Tuesday and confirmed by The Jerusalem Post. A police source declined to comment on the substance of the testimony.

Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, denied Hebrew media reports stating that the prime minister was “surprised” by the testimony. “It is clarified that the prime minister was not surprised by anything. Moreover, the Israeli police did not pretend to present any surprise to the prime minister,” Wienroth said in a statement on Tuesday, adding, “The prime minister answered all the questions asked and left the investigation completely relaxed. We have stated repeatedly that there will be nothing because there was nothing.”

Case 1,000 regards allegations that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, accepted illegal gifts of cigars, champagne and jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels from Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan.

While he is not a suspect in the case, Netanyahu’s son, Yair, has given testimony on suspicions that Australian billionaire James Packer gave lavish gifts to him in a bid to influence his father.

Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that police are leaning toward recommending to indict Netanyahu in the case.

The prime minister has reportedly not denied receiving the gifts, but claimed that they were presents given between friends and do not constitute a breach of trust.

According to Walla News, police investigators have also contacted US authorities to obtain a deposition from US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Netanyahu confident and owner of the Israel Hayom newspaper.

Separate suspicions, termed Case 2,000, regard an alleged attempt by the prime minister to broker favorable media coverage with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes in exchange for supporting a 2014 bill to weaken competing newspaper Israel Hayom.

According to the leaks of the conversation reported by Channel 2, Netanyahu allegedly told Mozes that he would ask Adelson, whom he referred to as “the gingy,” or redhead, if such a bill were acceptable to him.

Meanwhile, Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich said on Monday that police investigators are at the final stages of the probe. “We will end [the investigation] soon, we are in the final stages,” he told the press at a ceremony to appoint the new National Fire and Rescue Service commissioner.

Once the investigation is concluded, the police will submit their findings – along with a recommendation to either indict or close the case – to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit for a final decision.

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