Netanyahu trial: Tycoon house manager hated then-Israeli PM family

The Israeli court will let the prosecution meet with billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchan in London regarding the trial of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The house manager for one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s tycoon friends admitted under cross-examination on Wednesday that she hated the likely soon-to-be prime minister before the Jerusalem District Court.

The prosecution brought Shani Koskas to fill in the blanks regarding the expensive cigars and champagne which the Netanyahu family received from her boss, billionaire James Packer, as part of Case 1000, the “Illegal Gifts Affair.”

Netanyahu defense lawyer Amit Hadad was trying to undermine the credibility of her testimony by portraying her as having an anti-Netanyahu agenda.

According to the prosecution, Netanyahu’s acceptance of these expensive gifts, first from billionaire Arnon Milchan and later from Packer, was a breach of public trust. Some of the prosecution team had even wanted a bribery charge, especially since the prime minister at least tried to assist Milchan in various business pursuits.

For his part, Netanyahu has said the gifts were given out of friendship and denies criminal wrongdoing.

 Head of the Likud party MK Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party election event in Qiryat Shemona, October 24, 2022.  (credit: MICHAL GILADI/FLASH90) Head of the Likud party MK Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party election event in Qiryat Shemona, October 24, 2022. (credit: MICHAL GILADI/FLASH90)

Israel's Netanyahu and the Illegal Gifts Affair

From 2011-2016, Netanyahu allegedly received from billionaire Milchin NIS 267,254 ($75,700) in cigars and Sara Netanyahu received NIS 184,448 ($52,200) worth of champagne.

He and his family also received another NIS 229,174 ($64,900) in champagne and cigars from Packer between 2014 and 2016.

Koskas testified both about specific instances in which she provided the expensive gifts to the Netanyahus when they visited Packer’s residence in Caesarea and about the general pattern of gift-giving.

She said that the Netanyahus generally did not bring reciprocal gifts to give to Packer.

In addition, the billionaire’s house manager testified about receiving calls from the Prime Minister’s Office or interactions with Netanyahu’s secret service detail regarding his visits.

Koskas also received very specific instructions from Hadas Kline, chief aide to Milchan who also assisted Packer, about how to deliver the gifts to the Netanyahus.

To try to reduce the value of her testimony, Hadad questioned her about statements she had made to the police against the Netanyahus.

Both in court and to the police, Koskas admitted that she, her husband and her parents all “hate” and “loathe” the Netanyahus and that she had always hoped he would be toppled from power.

Asked if she ever refused to serve Netanyahu food, Koskas said she would never have refused orders from Packer to host or serve food to them, but that she did not do so “with a full heart.”

Despite this line of questioning, the prosecution is expected to argue that Koskas’s testimony is about relatively objective facts – whether there were gifts and when – and that, along with confirming testimony from others, the evidence she is providing overcomes any alleged bias from her political views.

Earlier on Wednesday, the court ruled that the prosecution can carry out a refreshing-of-memory meeting with Milchan at his full-time residence in London prior to his coming to court in Israel.

Memory refresher meetings are common where a witness gave most of his testimony four years earlier, though defense lawyers sometimes try to project witness tampering onto such meetings.

The defense had insisted that Milchan could only have his memory refreshed in Israel at the prosecution’s offices.

It seemed they wanted Milchan in Israel longer, possibly to be influenced by the atmosphere and to be more available for visits by messengers of Netanyahu.

The court said, however, that the prosecution can refresh his memory anywhere it sees fit since Milchan does not live in Israel full-time.