Indian billionaire testifies on Netanyahu corruption allegations

Indian billionaire testifies on Netanyahu corruption allegations

Ratan Tata said to have sought Arnon Milchan’s assistance in convincing PM to promote Israel-Jordan free trade zone

Ratan Tata (Public Domain)
Ratan Tata (Public Domain)

An Indian billionaire currently visiting in Israel gave testimony to the police regarding allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The billionaire, Ratan Tata, is head of the Tata business conglomerate and hails from one of the most prominent Indian families.

He testified to the police for two hours regarding suspicions that he was involved in a case in which the prime minister is alleged to have received gifts valued at hundreds of thousands of shekels.

The case, dubbed Case 1000, also involves Israeli businessman Arnon Milchan.

According to a report on Channel 10, Milchan allegedly asked Netanyahu to promote a free trade zone near the Jordan-Israel border. The request was said to have been made following consultation with Tata. The initiative never came through.

Meanwhile, efforts continue by police to receive testimony from James Packer, an Australian billionaire also alleged to have given Netanyahu and his family valuable gifts.

James Packer at a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Packer is in Mexico and the attorney-general, together with the State’s Prosecutor Office, is preparing to ask the Mexican government to ask Packer to testify.

Packer owns a home in Caesarea, near where the Netanyahu family has a private residence.

He is alleged to have allowed Netanyahu’s son Yair to use another apartment he rents in a prime location in Tel Aviv without asking him to pay for it.

Netanyahu is facing two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000.

Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family from 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 Milchan, the Israeli-born Hollywood producer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Netanyahu and his wife are said to 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.

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 is 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. No such deal was ever implemented.

The Netanyahus denies any wrongdoing.

Tata, the Indian billionaire, confirmed that he had discussed the allegations with Israeli officers, while affirming that the project that the free trade zone never took off and that he said nothing to imply Netanyahu was involved in any wrongdoing.

“A few days before the summit, a section of the press reported that in connection with their investigation of Mr. Milchan, the investigative team might also wish to speak to Mr. Tata while he was in Israel. Mr. Tata was advised to cancel his visit but as he had nothing to hide, he attended the conference in Tel Aviv as planned,” Tata’s office said in a statement.

“Mr. Tata also clarifies that at no time did he express or support a view that Mr. Netanyahu was involved directly and indirectly or derive any personal benefit from this project. Mr. Tata holds Mr. Netanyahu in high esteem and considers him to be a respected friend,” it said. “Allegations such as those made seem baseless and highly motivated.”

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