Netanyahu and Milchan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While seeking assistance to extend his working visa in the US, international movie mogul Arnon Milchan was asked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his cigar supplies, according to the testimony of the premier’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, Channel 10 News reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Harow, who became a state’s witness in Case 1000 last August, said in his police testimony that in a meeting between Netanyahu and Milchan, in which the latter wished to receive assistance to extend his working permit, he was asked if he brought cigars. The report said Harow was present and witnessed the conversations.
The report also said the conversation between the two strengthens the mutual-interest component, which is essential for the state’s prosecution to determine whether to indict the prime minister.
In response to the report, the Prime Minister’s Office said: “This is a biased report, and any further statement is irrelevant.”
In Case 1000 (the “gifts affair”), it is suspected that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of presents – including cigars, bottles of Champagne and jewelry – from various businessmen; in return, the prime minister used his power and acted on their behalf.
Media reports said the police would likely recommend that the state prosecution indict Netanyahu in the case.
A court document revealed in August that the prime minister is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in both Cases 1000 and 2000, the “Yediot Aharonot
In Case 2000, police are looking into conversations that were held between Netanyahu and Yediot Aharonot
publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the two may have conspired to weaken Israel Hayom
in return for favorable coverage of the prime minister.
Netanyahu was questioned by police seven times in the two cases and is expected to be questioned once again. He has constantly denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly rejected bribery claims.
In the past, Netanyahu has acknowledged accepting gifts from Milchan. But he maintains they were exchanged between friends and did not constitute bribery or a breach of trust.
“It is allowed, according to the law, to receive gifts from friends,” Netanyahu told the Knesset in January. “Arnon Milchan and I have been friends for more than 20 years. We are good friends. Our wives are good friends,” he said.
In November, Channel 2 News showed photos, which Netanyahu allegedly submitted to the police, of himself and his family together with the Milchan family to prove their friendship. However, police sources were quoted as saying this was irrelevant if something was done or given in return.
The police are reportedly looking into several instances in which Netanyahu might have done something to benefit Milchan.
The first is an initiative nine years ago to establish a free-trade zone near the Jordanian border. It is suspected that Milchan asked Netanyahu to promote the project following a consultation with Indian billionaire Ratan Tata, whom the Israel Police recently questioned. The initiative never came to fruition.
The second involves Netanyahu helping Milchan secure a US visa and whether doing so had anything to do with the gifts received.
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