Netanyahu trial witness: Billionaire threw her phone into pool over crime probe

Hadas Klein said billionaire tycoon James Packer was nervous about criminal probes into Netanyahu.

 Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

A key prosecution witness in Case 1000, the “Illegal Gifts Affair, against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu testified that billionaire tycoon James Packer threw her cell phone, iPad and other connected devices into a pool when he got nervous about the criminal probes.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Amit Hadad, Hadas Klein, aide to billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchan, acknowledged on Tuesday that she could not produce a large volume of text messages because her cell phone had been destroyed. In fact, Klein said that three to four of her cell phones were destroyed. Hadad said this was ignored by the police as part of an attempt to cover up aspects of her relationship with the Netanyahus, which would undermine the prosecution’s case against the former prime minister.

As an example of the messages that the prosecution wanted to cover up, Hadad produced an email previously not seen at trial, in which Packer called Sara Netanyahu “Sister Sara,” and expressed gratitude for the “wonderful presents” that she gave him.

Packer’s email seemed to imply that all of the gifts he gave were due to a close relationship. The email would imply that these were reciprocal gifts and not forced at all.

Hadad asked Klein why she hid these emails from the police. Klein angrily replied that she had hid nothing, and insisted on reminding him that she is not a defendant.

Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

According to Hadad, Klein invented allegations against the Netanyahus for Milchan’s sake, because the police had considered at an earlier point charging him with bribery.

Earlier in the proceedings, Klein admitted that an early report estimating the value of the gifts was less than a third of the amount in the indictment. She acknowledged that an early estimate placed the value of the gifts at under NIS 200,000.

The indictment alleged the value of the gifts at well over NIS 700,000.

An account of the gifts

The indictment said that Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 267,254 ($75,800) in cigars and NIS 184,448 ($52,300) worth of champagne from billionaire Milchan between 2011 and 2016. Furthermore, it said that Sara Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 10,900 ($3,100) worth of jewelry from him during the same time period.

Netanyahu and his family also allegedly received another NIS 229,174 ($65,000) in champagne and cigars from Packer between 2014 and 2016.

According to Hadad, there was a Microsoft Excel sheet that had a much lower estimate, which Klein confirmed.

The defense lawyer also accused the police of intentionally not pursuing or “finding” this Excel sheet report because it could undermine their case against Netanyahu.

A prosecution spokeswoman said that the truth would be clarified as the trial continued, but that the defendant’s claims should not be taken at face value.

Who is Hadas Klein?

Klein is a key prosecution witness for proving allegations against Netanyahu. According to the allegations, Netanyahu received an illegal amount of valuable gifts despite being in a conflict of interest with tycoons Milchan and Packer. He is also accused of using his power as prime minister to assist in their various business and personal issues.

Hadad accused Klein of inventing large portions of her testimony against the Netanyahus, saying that the gifts were given in much smaller numbers and far less frequently than described. He also contends that the gift-giving was in the context of friendship, and not with the tension described by Klein.

Throughout the cross-examination, he also sought to highlight a range of issues that Klein did not remember, to try to convince the court that her memory of various events in the case was also faulty.

Tensions between Hadad and Klein were high, and boiled over when he explicitly accused her of lying. The judges intervened at times, asking the lawyer to lower his voice.