Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a direct request to an aide of billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchan to give Sara Netanyahu any gifts she asked for, short of a free apartment, assuring her it was legal, the aide testified on Wednesday at Jerusalem District Court.
“Mr. Netanyahu called me from his office,” said Milchan’s aide, Hadas Klein. “I said to him that I had been [unfairly] hit with threatening screams [by Sara Netanyahu], and that I had received a very difficult call over something where I had done nothing wrong. He said to me that I just did not understand,” and that Klein should give Sara all of the cigars and champagne she wanted because they had gotten it approved by a legal adviser.
“I do not work for your wife,” Klein told Netanyahu.
Sick giving "gifts" to Netanyahu
This all played out as Milchan had gotten fed up of requiring “gifts” over the years, and told Klein to tell Sara that they would need to stop giving the gifts or reduce the volume because they were getting suspicious questions from their accountant about the legality.
"Mr. Netanyahu called me from his office, I said to him that I had been [unfairly] hit with threatening screams [by Sara Netanyahu]."Hadas Klein
Sara pushed back and allegedly took out her anger on Klein, who then threatened to resign from working for Milchan after having worked for him for three decades.
Milchan eventually assured Klein that she was valued, and that Sara was really mad at him regarding delays in the gifts and not at her.
"Illegal Gifts Affair"
Klein was testifying for the second day as part of the public corruption trial in Case 1000, the “Illegal Gifts Affair,” against the former prime minister. Klein’s testimony marks a transition away from media bribery in Case 4000, the “Bezeq-Walla Affair, which has dominated the trial since witnesses started testifying a year ago.
Klein also testified how Milchan was requesting advice from another tycoon billionaire ally of Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson, on how to procure the specific kinds of cigars that Netanyahu wanted, but at a lower cost.
Adelson died during the Netanyahu probe, but had already testified to police about Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair.
Klein later testified about alleged efforts by Netanyahu to help Milchan obtain his US Visa extended by several years despite a conflict of interest by his receipt of expensive gifts.
She testified to having seen and heard Milchan and Netanyahu work together to try to get then US Ambassador Dan Shapiro as well as US Secretary of State John Kerry to help.
While Shapiro did not assist, Kerry did eventually, according to Kline.
Moreover, she testified about Milchan’s efforts to persuade Netanyahu to help him extend an exemption he had on Israeli taxes.
Klein said that Netanyahu tried to get then finance minister Yair Lapid to assist, but that Lapid refused on the grounds that he was committed to avoiding politicizing professional issues.
She stated that Lapid also refused gifts from Milchan when offered.
Netanyahu defense lawyer Amit Hadad complained that Lapid was only being brought in to influence the upcoming election, but Prosecutor Alon Gildin said this was just part of the factual background to the Case 1000 story.
One place where the defense may already have scored some points was on how much money Milchan actually spent on gifts for Netanyahu.
Hadad drew attention to Klein giving various estimates of NIS 31,000 per month, NIS 42,000 per month, or even close to NIS 100,000 per month.
This disturbed Judge Moshe Baram, who pressed Gildin about the inconsistency.
Gildin said that the numbers were always an estimate, and that the exact numbers were less important than the pattern.
The indictment in Case 1000 is based on the vague and hard-to-define breach of trust charge.
Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 267,254 ($75,800) in cigars and NIS 184,448 ($52,300) worth of champagne from Milchan between 2011 and 2016. Sara Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 10,900 ($3,100) worth of jewelry from him in the same time period.
Netanyahu and his family also received another NIS 229,174 ($65,000) in champagne and cigars from Milchan’s associate, Australian billionaire James Packer, between 2014 and 2016.