Arnon Milchan brought expensive gifts for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and inquired about the status of his US visa, he said Monday during the second day of his remote testimony from a courthouse in England in the Case 1000 trial.
In the incident recounted by the prosecution, Milchan arrived at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem with gifts of champagne and cigars and asked if there were any new developments with his visa. Netanyahu reportedly called his former chief of staff Ari Harrow and asked him to find out.
Milchan confirmed these events on Monday. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of helping Milchan with his visa issues and other business interests in return for expensive gifts.
Milchan appealed to the “whole world,” including Netanyahu, for help with his US visa troubles, the businessman recalled. Milchan said he had also contacted former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro for help when he was forced to wait months for an American visa. Milchan later received extensions on his visa.
The film mogul had also reached out to Netanyahu and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid about a tax-exemption extension for returning residents. Milchan was a returned resident at the time, and the extension would have applied to him. Milchan was also close to Lapid, who had worked for him for a few months in Los Angeles.
The prosecution asked Milchan about several business ventures prior to the period of the charge that Netanyahu allegedly had involved himself with. Milchan had invested millions of shekels in Channel 10, which he described as a failed project that was “bleeding out.”
In 2009, Milchan allegedly spoke to Netanyahu about a law reducing advertising agency commissions. Milchan was against the law. In 2010, Milchan appealed to promote a project with an Indian billionaire that fell through because of the Arab Spring. Netanyahu’s lawyer attacked the focus on past issues that were irrelevant to the charges.
Milchan said the gifts he gave Netanyahu did not influence their friendship, and before the police investigation, there were no issues with their relationship because everything was understood as legally unimpeachable.
When asked what he thought would happen if he declined to give Netanyahu gifts, he said he never wanted to tell him no, and he always said yes because they were friends.
The prosecution said Milchan had told investigators he had said perhaps he would be invited less to the Prime Minister’s Residence. Defense attorney Amit Haddad said such a comment and the very line of questioning was speculative.
Milchan thought the relationship was legally unimpeachable
Milchan detailed on Sunday how he had given expensive gifts to the Netanyahu family, including champagne, cigars and shirts. Though the different gifts were accompanied by code names, Milchan said he did not think there would be legal issues. On Monday, he said some of the gifts, such as champagne and cigars, had created more relaxed environments for Netanyahu to engage in peace talks.
Milchan said he was close friends with Netanyahu, “like brothers,” and he had given him shirts so that he would look more like a prime minister. He had given his personal assistants, including Hadas Klein, a free hand to give the Netanyahu family what they needed, he said, adding that they were regular deliveries, sometimes made by Milchan himself and sometimes by aides.
The prosecution read out Milchan’s comments to the police investigators in which he had asked an officer to tell Netanyahu he still considered him a friend and that he could not lie during the interrogation.
Milchan testified about how he had introduced the Netanyahu family to another friend of his, Australian businessman James Packer. Milchan had met Packer through the Australian’s father and thought that bringing the family to Israel would help the state economically.
Packer is also of interest to Case 1000 for the gifts given to Netanyahu. Milchan said Packer did not think a NIS 100,000 piece of jewelry was much of an expense. Milchan had also previously mentioned that the gifts he gave were not considered a great expense to him.
Milchan gave his Zoom testimony in a Brighton courthouse after he had claimed that he was too ill to travel to Israel. Milchan continued his playful behavior on Monday, loudly testing the microphone as a joke just before the hearing began. When asked how he was feeling, he hesitantly said he was okay.
Milchan coughed throughout his testimony, but it did not prevent him from speaking for hours. He often failed to recall the discussed events and their details, and he had to be reminded by the prosecution. Defense attorney Amit Haddad criticized the proceedings as largely consisting of Milchan being reminded of things he had said in the past.
Sara Netanyahu was present at the Brighton courthouse. At the beginning of the hearing, Milchan mocked how he had been instructed not to look at her. On Sunday, she had also been told by the prosecution not to stare at the witness as a means of influencing him.
Following a Thursday leak about a collapsing bribery charge for Case 4000, the court ruled on Monday that it would release a summary of the judge’s chamber meeting with the prosecution and defense. The prosecution had issued a request to the court on Sunday calling for the meetings to be made public to prevent misinformation that could influence the proceedings. The defense said on Monday that it supported this decision, as it felt that the leaks had not accurately represented what the court said.
The defense rejected a request by the prosecution to speed up the trial by having hearings on recess days. The defense said it did not have the same resources as the state to be able keep up with such an intensive schedule of sessions, and it would also be detrimental to its clients.