British-Israeli billionaire testifies to police in PM gifts affair
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British-Israeli billionaire testifies to police in PM gifts affair

Poju Zabludowicz said to give voluntary testimony, is not a suspect

British-Israeli businessman Chaim "Poju" Zabludowicz in Jerusalem. (Flash90)
British-Israeli businessman Chaim "Poju" Zabludowicz in Jerusalem. (Flash90)

Billionaire British-Israeli businessman Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz this week testified to police in one of the ongoing corruption investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Israeli television reports on Saturday, Zabludowicz was asked by Lahav 433 police investigators to give his testimony while he was visiting Israel this week. He was asked about gifts he allegedly gave to Netanyahu when the latter served as finance minister and prime minister.

Channel 2 said he gave “voluntary testimony.” Channel 10 said he acknowledged that he had spoken to police and that he said he was not a suspect in the investigation.

Zabludowicz is reportedly one of a growing list of wealthy international businessmen from whom Netanyahu and his wife Sara are alleged to have accepted improper gifts worth large sums of money.

The Netanyahus are alleged to have received champagne, cigars and jewelry from billionaire Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, as well as meals and accommodation for their son Yair from Australian billionaire James Packer.

The Netanyahus deny any wrongdoing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (L) attend a memorial ceremony for Ron Nahman, the founder of Ariel, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank on February 2, 2017 in Ariel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (L) attend a memorial ceremony for Ron Nahman, the founder of Ariel, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank on February 2, 2017 in Ariel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Sources close to Netanyahu told Channel 10 in February that reports alleging Zabludowicz’s involvement in the affair were part of an attempt by the station’s reporter Raviv Drucker, who has repeatedly drawn the prime minister’s ire, to target the prime minister.

Drucker just wants to take a “new name, mix it with the words ‘gifts,’ ‘wealth and power,’ ‘rich friends’ and of course ‘Sara Netanyahu,’ and the name of the person on duty this time is Poju Zabludowicz,” the sources said.

The Netanyahus have reportedly insisted that the value of gifts they received was far lower than what has been reported, and that, in the case of the Milchans, the gifts were unremarkable given that the Milchans are their best friends.

In addition to the gifts affair, known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is a key suspect in an investigation known as Case 2000, in which the prime minister allegedly reached an illicit quid pro quo with the owner and publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Arnon “Noni” Mozes, to forward legislation that would weaken the circulation of Yedioth rival Israel Hayom in exchange for muting the paper’s critical stance towards Netanyahu. No such deal was ever implemented.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

 

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