Lawyers for Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday painted a key prosecution witness as being close friends with Sara Netanyahu in order to undermine the state’s claim that gifts were given under duress, in the public corruption trial against the former prime minister.
In the second day of cross-examining Hadas Klein and in her fifth appearance before the Jerusalem District Court, lawyer Amit Hadad presented text message after message in which billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchan’s former aide seemed to fall over herself with praise and writing of “kisses” (often meant to show close friendship) to Sara.
He also showed messages suggesting that Klein’s story about being called out of the blue on Passover Eve to drop her family’s plans and race over to bring expensive champagne and cigars to Sara was not true, but that they had pre-coordinated the date and time of the handoff.
What does it mean?
This would mean that Klein was not being pushed around obnoxiously like a slave, but rather could support Netanyahu’s contention that they had a tight friendship, which would also extend to Milchan.
If the court finds that the relationship was close and the gifts were given free of duress, it would be difficult to convict Netanyahu of fraud and breach of trust.
All of the latest testimony is part of Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair, with the indictment alleging that Netanyahu received NIS 267,254 ($75,800) in cigars and NIS 184,448 ($52,300) worth of champagne from billionaire Milchan between 2011 and 2016. Further, it said that Sara Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 10,900 ($3,100) worth of jewelry from him during the same time period.
He and his family also allegedly received another NIS 229,174 ($65,000) in champagne and cigars from Milchan's associate, Australian billionaire tycoon James Packer, between 2014 and 2016.
During cross-examination, Hadad also questioned Klein about how police tried to use her somewhat as an undercover agent to build their case against the Netanyahus.
For example, Klein lied to Milchan’s bookkeeper to get her to assemble all receipts relating to gifts bought for the Netanyahus, which she then provided to police without either Milchan or the bookkeeper knowing.
Hadad tried to spin this as an example of Klein being dishonest and a basis to reject her testimony, but she countered that she was under instruction from the police, which is the country’s official law enforcement service.
Klein also admitted that the police convinced her to call Packer to convince him to fly to Israel to testify to and cooperate with the police.
However, Packer not only rejected her plea, but got angry with her, implying she had turned against him and was trying to set him up with the police.
In another anecdote, Klein testified how an unknown person called her pretending to be the police investigations commander, asking her questions about the case.
But she could tell something was wrong, even without having met the investigations chief at that point. She declined to provide information and instead reported the incident to the police.
Hadad is expected to cross-examine Klein up until the July 21 court recess, as well as for a few hearings in September.
This means that while there might be a few hearings after Klein testifies and before Rosh Hashanah, the trial will not break serious ground with the next major witness until after the Jewish holidays in mid-October.