A key witness in one of the graft cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly told investigators that the current head of the Mossad intelligence agency bought nearly NIS 2,000 ($561) worth of cigars for the premier while serving as national security adviser, and was never reimbursed.
Mossad director Yossi Cohen and the prime minister both swiftly rejected the claim after Channel 12 news reported on the testimony given by Hadas Klein to investigators in Case 1000, which deals with lavish gifts to Netanyahu from his billionaire associates.
According to the report, Klein recalled to investigators that Cohen once told her he had bought Netanyahu NIS 1,800 ($505) worth of cigars but that the prime minister did not pay him back for them.
Klein quoted Cohen as telling her, “He [Netanyahu] did not intend to take his wallet out of his pocket. It was the first and last time that I bought something for him.”
The incident allegedly happened when Cohen was serving as head of the National Security Council in 2013-2015 and before he was picked by Netanyahu to lead the Mossad in December 2015, the network said.
A statement on behalf of Netanyahu in response to the report declared it to be “more delusional and false testimony from Hadas Klein. Yossi Cohen did not give the prime minister any kind of gifts.”
“The proof that Hadas Klein is lying about Yossi Cohen and the prime minister shows up in the next part of her testimony, in which she claims that [Netanyahu’s former] chief of staff Gil Sheffer bought the prime minister cigars for tens of thousands of shekels without the prime minister paying him, while Gil Sheffer said during his investigation: ‘Occasionally I would buy a cigar or two for myself and the prime minister, but we had an ongoing monetary reckoning, I would tell him how much the cigars cost and he would pay me.'”
“Here is the ultimate proof of the media’s manipulation of selective and tendentious leaks intended to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of elections,” the statement added.
In his own terse response to Channel 12, Cohen said “there was no such thing and it never happened.”
Klein served as personal assistant to both Hollywood movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
Milchan is a central figure in Case 1000, one of three corruption cases in which Netanyahu faces criminal charges, pending a hearing.
According to the attorney general, Milchan and Packer gave Netanyahu and his wife gifts amounting to NIS 701,146 ($195,000), mostly cigars and champagne, in exchange for favors.
Milchan and Packer are friends and have mutual business interests. The Haaretz daily reported that in 2015 Milchan and Packer tried wooing Cohen to join a global security firm called Blue Sky International, which was founded by Milchan in 2008. The businessmen wanted Cohen to take up a partnership in a cybersecurity project. At the time, Cohen was head of the National Security Council and in December 2015, Netanyahu selected him to lead the Mossad, putting the kibosh on Milchan and Packer’s offer.
In 2017, Channel 13 news reported that the State Prosecutor’s Office had decided to look into claims that Cohen received expensive tickets to a Mariah Carey concert from her then-fiance, Packer.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000. He also faces those charges in a pair of other investigations known as cases 2000 and 4000. The attorney general has also recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery in Case 4000.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said he intends to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing. Neither Milchan nor Packer have been charged.
Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing with Mandelblit is scheduled for October 2-3, after the attorney general declined last month to delay it due to the September 17 elections.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a political witch hunt.