A cousin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly questioned by police over the Passover festival in connection to an ongoing corruption investigation against Netanyahu.
Nathan Milikowsky, a former steel executive who resides in the US, provided testimony to the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 unit regarding case 1000, in which the prime minister is a central suspect, Channel 1 reported Thursday.
The case revolves around allegedly illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne said to have been given to the prime minister and his wife Sara by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, among others.
Netanyahu and his wife have denied that receiving the gifts constituted a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends. Netanyahu also reportedly asserted that some cigars he bought with his own money, while others he purchased with cash given to him by his “rich relative” Milikowsky.
According to the Channel 1 report, Milikowsky was also questioned by police in another case known as Case 3000, which revolves around suspicion that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, who is also the prime minister’s cousin, tried to influence multi-million-dollar naval deals.
The case involves suspicions that David Shimron, acting also on behalf of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, lobbied the Defense Ministry to purchase naval vessels — including new submarines for the Israel Navy as well as ships intended to protect the country’s maritime natural gas fields.
According to suspicions, pushing through the NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) defense contract would net Shimron a hefty fee, despite a possible conflict of interest. Part of the agreement could also see ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the vessels.
Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, which the Justice Ministry emphasized in its statement on Monday.
Milikowsky was questioned over the affair by police concerning past business dealings he had with ThyssenKrupp, according to Channel 1.
According to a report from the public broadcasting corporation Kan last month, GrafTech International — a steel producer in which Milikowsky had an 11-percent stake — sold materials used in steel production to ThyssenKrupp in deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Although the report did not detail any alleged wrongdoing by Milikowsky over his ties to ThyssenKrupp, it did reveal that Shimron has served as a lawyer for Milikowsky for dozens of years.
In addition to Case 1000, Netanyahu is also a key suspect in a separate criminal investigation known as Case 2000.
Case 2000 is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal made between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister was said to have promised Mozes he would advance legislation to reduce the circulation of Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu was most recently questioned by police over the affair earlier this month, marking the fourth such time he has been questioned by police over the two ongoing criminal investigations in which he is a suspect.
The prime minister is expected to be again questioned by police multiple times as part of the investigation, which is reportedly expected to go on for some time, as is the Case 1000 investigation, the Haaretz daily reported last month.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.