The Israel Police recently questioned another US businessman as part of the ongoing corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Haaretz daily reported on Friday.
Multi-millionaire Spencer Partrich was interrogated by police as part of an investigation, dubbed Case 1000, into whether Netanyahu accepted valuable gifts from foreign businessmen.
In the past, Partrich had been dubbed by the Israeli media as the prime minister’s “air taxi” for allegedly regularly flying Netanyahu around the US while he served as finance minister a decade ago.
That complicated affair, dubbed “Bibi Tours,” centers on allegations that Netanyahu had double-billed travel expenses while serving as a member of Knesset and minister in prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government. It was first reported by Channel 10 in 2011.
In September 2014, then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein closed the case. However in February, following revelations that almost half the trips Netanyahu took while he was finance minister (from 2003-2005) were double-billed and all the flights he took during the period improperly generated surplus cash which could be spent on other parts of the trips, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira to ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal probe, Channel 10 News reported.
In December, Partrich purchased half of Netanyahu’s Jerusalem childhood home from the prime minister’s younger brother Ido, essentially becoming Netanyahu’s business partner in a deal — brokered by Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron — worth NIS 4.2 million ($1.2 million), the newspaper report said.
It was unclear what Partrich planned to do with half of a Jerusalem home, in the Katamon neighborhood, inherited by the Netanyahus after father Benzion Netanyahu’s death in 2014.
A representative for Partrich and the Netanyahu brothers told Haaretz that the prime minister had nothing to do with the deal. In December, a spokesperson for the prime minister reportedly suggested that Partrich may want to build an apartment building, museum, or archive there.
Partrich is a property investor and lives in Detroit.
— VirtualGlobetrotting (@VirtualGlobe) September 9, 2014
One case being probed by police, known as Case 1000, focuses on whether the Netanyahus received some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) in gifts of cigars and fine wines from American film-maker Arnon Milchan. The couple have reportedly insisted that the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were unremarkable seeing that the Milchans are their close friends. Other businessmen are also alleged to have provided the Netanyahus with gifts.
On Wednesday Channel 2 reported that police have given up on attempts to find and question Australian billionaire James Packer in connection with the corruption probe, but nevertheless “unequivocally” intend to recommend filing an indictment against Netanyahu.
Despite not being able to track down Packer, reported to live a jet-set lifestyle, the TV report said that police have over 90 testimonies and intend to wrap up their investigation next month.
The prime minister is also being investigated in a second case, known as Case 2000, which involves alleged negotiations with the publisher of the Yedioth Aharonoth daily, Arnon Mozes, and focuses on the prime minister’s supposed promise to advance legislation to hobble the Sheldon Adelson-controlled Israel Hayom paper in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.