Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never complained if Arnon Milchan visited without bringing gifts, and when he did give them presents it was out of friendship not obligation, the businessman said during his sixth day of testimony for Netanyahu’s Case 1000 corruption trial on Sunday, broadcasting to the Jerusalem District Court from a UK courthouse.
Milchan’s testimony contradicts that of his personal assistant Hadas Klein, who said that Milchan had grown weary of the gifts and that the prime minister’s wife was constantly texting her for more luxuries. Klein testified that Milchan brought in Australian businessman James Packer to share the burden.
Netanyahu is accused of breach of trust, and is alleged to have accepted these gifts from Milchan in return for help with personal and business issues, but defense lawyer Amit Haddad continued to argue on Sunday that the gifts were motivated by a close relationship between the men.
The prosecution's position
Milchan testified on Sunday that he had downplayed his friendship in initial police interviews because he was pressured to do so. He had reaffirmed throughout the six days of testimony that he and Netanyahu were “like brothers.”
The businessman also told Haddad that he never hid the gifts or his relationship with the Netanyahu family. During previous testimonies Milchan shared that he and Netanyahu had code names for the gifts, such as “leaves” for tobacco and “roses” for champagne. On Sunday he said that these codes were not used to hide anything, and he used them even when they thought they were alone, part of friendly banter.
While Klein had previously characterized Milchan as being sick of the costs, Milchan testified on Sunday that the champagne, cigars, and shirts that he had given Netanyahu were negligible from a financial point of view, and he didn’t really track how much they cost. He testified that Sara Netanyahu had given gifts to his wife and children, as a matter of friendly reciprocity.
Netanyahu is alleged by the prosecution to have helped Milchan obtain a US visa and to have promoted a tax exemption law extension that would have benefited the businessman.
Milchan claimed to be too ill to travel to Israel for his testimony, and was allowed by the court to testify from Brighton. During his Sunday testimony, his coughing fits were noticeably worse than during the previous week of hearings. The connection to the Brighton courthouse was at times spotty, and audio issues have plagued the proceedings. Sunday’s hearing ended early for “unexpected” reasons according to the court.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.