MK seeks probe on whether Netanyahu took ‎€1m. from alleged French fraudster
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MK seeks probe on whether Netanyahu took ‎€1m. from alleged French fraudster

Protesting 'scent of corruption,' Zionist Union's Ksenia Svetlova asks comptroller and A-G to investigate; PM has denied the claim

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

MK Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party as a new member of the Israeli Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
MK Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party as a new member of the Israeli Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Israel’s attorney general has been asked to look into allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted donations from alleged French fraudster Arnaud Mimran, to the tune of 1 million euros (about $1.1 million). Netanyahu has denied the claim.

“We received a request from a Knesset member and it will be addressed and treated in the customary manner. We do not see fit to say any more on the subject at this time,” a spokeswoman for Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. The request was filed by Zionist Union legislator Ksenia Svetlova.

On May 19, Arnaud Mimran, a central suspect in what is known in France as the Carbon VAT scam, and “the heist of the century,” testified at his trial in Paris that he had funded Netanyahu’s personal and election expenses in the amount of 1 million euros. According to Mimran, the alleged donation took place in 2001. Netanyahu immediately denied the allegation.

Between 2008-2009, the French government lost approximately €1.8 billion to a scheme that involved fraudsters buying carbon credits in EU countries where no VAT (Value Added Tax) was charged, and reselling them in France while charging 19.6 percent VAT but never remitting that tax money to the government. Thirteen other defendants have been indicted, and several of them fled to Israel rather than stand trial.

In an interview earlier this month, investigators at France’s Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) told the Times of Israel that several fugitive suspects in the Carbon VAT scam now run fraudulent forex and binary options companies that target French citizens from Israel.

Arnaud Mimran (R) arrives flanked by his lawyer Jean-Marc Fedida (L), at the Paris courthouse, on May 25, 2016, to attend his trial in the case of the value-added tax (VAT) fraud on carbon tax amounting to 238 million euros. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
Arnaud Mimran (R) arrives flanked by his lawyer Jean-Marc Fedida (L), at the Paris courthouse, on May 25, 2016, to attend his trial in the case of the value-added tax (VAT) fraud on carbon tax amounting to 238 million euros. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)

Mimran himself is also under investigation in France for kidnapping and extorting a Swiss banker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, August 24, 2009. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, August 24, 2009. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

On Wednesday, a day after State Comptroller Yosef Shapira issued his 2016 report, which chided Netanyahu for allowing private donors and organizations to cover travel expenses for himself and his family, Svetlova reiterated her call to Shapira and Mandelblit to probe possible French sources of private donations to Netanyahu.

Specifically, Svetlova asked the government watchdogs last Thursday to look into Mimran’s testimony that he gave Netanyahu €1m.

“If Mimran’s testimony is true,” Svetlova wrote in her request, “it would constitute a crude violation of the integrity expected of an elected representative, in particular of the office of prime minister.”

Svetlova added, “the smell of corruption is wafting far and wide. The State Comptroller has ruled, as Netanyahu and his lawyers know very well, that it is illegal to raise more than NIS 11,480 (some $3,000) from a single donor for a Knesset run and more that NIS 45,880 (some $12,000) for a campaign to be head of a party.”

Speaking to the Times of Israel, Svetlova went further.

“If there is a suspicion of criminal acts,” she said, “the prime minister should suspend himself for the duration of the proceedings.”

Several dozen French citizens are thought to be evading justice in Israel. As reported in The Times of Israel in February, France has sent Israel at least 70 formal requests for judicial assistance with cases involving suspected fraud by dual Israeli-French nationals. Compliance on Israel’s side has been partial.

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