Report: Billionaire’s softened testimony in Netanyahu investigation

Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan said to walk back previous testimony in setback for police investigators.

Netanyahu and Milchan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Milchan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan reportedly retracted previous testimony that police planned to use in the criminal investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over allegations that he accepted illegal gifts from the film producer.
Milchan’s testimony to police investigators, given last week in his Los Angeles home, was softened from that which he gave in November, Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.
Milchan’s second testimony differed on the value of gifts that were given to Netanyahu and his family and the extent of the prime minister’s awareness of the gifts.
The existence of the testimony was confirmed by The Jerusalem Post; however, a police official declined to comment on its substance.
The Justice Ministry said the contradiction is significant enough that police investigators must seek testimony from Australian billionaire James Packer, who is also suspected of giving illegal gifts to the Netanyahu family.
Wednesday’s report appears to contradict one that was broadcast on Tuesday by the same channel, which said that Milchan’s testimony supported a police decision to recommend indicting the prime minister. The billionaire is said to have supported the prior testimony of his secretary Hadas, who reportedly gave specific details about gifts given to Netanyahu and his family and was instrumental in purchasing and coordinating them. Milchan told investigators he became “fed up” with giving gifts to the prime minister and his family, according to Channel 2.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s personal physician, Dr. Tzvi Berkowitz, said on Wednesday that the prime minister has stopped smoking cigars due to health problems.
This came as Netanyahu told police investigators on Monday that he does not smoke cigars because he suffers from sinus problems.
Speaking to radio station 103 FM, the doctor affirmed Netanyahu’s assertion, stating, “It’s not an alibi, it’s true. He has not smoked cigars for a long time already. Also In the past he never smoked a lot. The reason is his nose.”
According to a police investigation, termed Case 1,000, the prime minister is alleged to have accepted from Milchan hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of fine cigars, including iconic Cuban Montecristos, Cohiba Sigla Vs and Trinidads.
Netanyahu’s lawyer Jacob Weinroth in January defended the cigar gifts by stating, “Any reasonable person knows that someone bringing their friend cigars is not a criminal offense.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s lawyers denied reports that investigators surprised the prime minister with new testimony when questioning him the previous day.
Weinroth told Army Radio that Netanyahu had not been presented with “any new document.”
The prime minister, he said, was questioned only regarding separate allegations that Netanyahu attempted to broker favorable media coverage with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes in exchange for weakening the Israel Hayom newspaper, in what has been termed Case 2000.
Netanyahu’s lawyers repeated the prime minister’s mantra on Tuesday regarding the investigation: “There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”