Israeli spy firm apologizes for helping Weinstein quell allegations

Israeli spy firm apologizes for helping Weinstein quell allegations

Black Cube board member says that in retrospect it wouldn't have taken job, will donate fee to women's groups

This file photo taken on October 5, 2015, shows Harvey Weinstein posing during a photocall in Cannes, southeastern France. (AFP/Valery Hache)
This file photo taken on October 5, 2015, shows Harvey Weinstein posing during a photocall in Cannes, southeastern France. (AFP/Valery Hache)

A board member at the Israeli private intelligence group Black Cube apologized on Thursday for his firm’s work on behalf of Harvey Weinstein and said it would not have assisted the disgraced producer if it had known it was helping suppress sexual assault allegations against him.

“If we had known this from the beginning, God forbid we wouldn’t have taken the job,” Asher Tishler told Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2). “I apologize for taking the job.”

“When we took the job we had no idea this was going on,” he added.

Tishler also apologized to the women who have alleged they were harassed by Weinstein.

“We apologize to everyone who was hurt by this,” said Tishler, who stressed Black Cube employs many women, adding that the company was also hurt by the scandal. “I was hurt and you were hurt in the same measure.”

Tishler said Black Cube would donate its $1.3 million fee from Weinstein to women’s causes.

Asher Tishler (Screen capture: Hahadashot)

Tishler’s apology on behalf of the firm came after The Daily Mail revealed the identity of the intelligence operative who duped at least one of Weinstein’s accusers earlier Thursday.

The Daily Mail reported that Stella Penn Pechanac met with Rose McGowan on several occasions to determine whether the actress was planning to go public with her rape allegation against Weinstein, and even obtained the unpublished manuscript of the actress’s memoir.

The New York Times reported that, in 1997, Weinstein reached a $100,000 settlement with McGowan, then 23, after an incident in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival.

During her 2016 meeting with McGowan, Pechanac claimed to work for a London-based firm named Rueben Capital Partners. The bogus firm billed itself as “one of the UK’s most prominent providers of investment management services to wealthy individuals, foundations and charities,” according to a cached version of its website that appears to have been taken offline earlier this week.

The now-defunct site also had a section dedicated to “Women in Focus,” an initiative ostensibly dedicated to “combating all forms of discrimination against women in the workplace, but also work towards promoting the inclusion of women in business — actively and at all levels.”

Pechanac did not immediately respond to a Times of Israel email request for comment.

Collage showing alleged Israeli intelligence operative Stella Penn Pechanac (L) and US producer Harvey Weinstein (R).

Earlier this week, The New Yorker revealed that Weinstein employed Black Cube for $1.3 million in order “stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein.”

The report said that during the one-year period the Tel Aviv-based firm worked for Weinstein, Black Cube agents targeted dozens of individuals to collect personal information about them, including their sexual histories, in a bid to prevent them from publicly accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault.

Hadashot news reported Tuesday that Weinstein was referred to Black Cube by former prime minister Ehud Barak. Barak admitted to making the connection to the TV station, but said he did not know why Weinstein was interested in the company’s services.

On its website, Black Cube bills itself as a “select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”

The private intelligence agency declined to comment, saying it does not discuss its clients as a matter of policy, but stressed that its work is always legal.

Former prime minister and defense minster Ehud Barak speaks during an event to launch the Reporty App in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2016. (Photo by Flash90)

Weinstein was said to have closely monitored Black Cube’s efforts as it was ongoing, although his lawyers worked with investigators as well. This included David Boies, who is most famous for having represented former vice president Al Gore in the highly-consequential Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore.

In the month since The New Yorker and The New York Times published allegations of serial predatory behavior by producer Weinstein, some 100 women have accused him of misconduct ranging from harassment to rape. People who said they had been victimized have also felt emboldened to voice allegations against other men who had been seen as untouchable.

Weinstein denies any non-consensual relations.

Since the allegations were published, every project linked to The Weinstein Company, co-founded by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob, is now toxic, and their film company is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Last month, the Producers Guild of America announced that Weinstein had resigned his membership, and the group opted to impose a lifetime ban on him. The guild called it an unprecedented step.

The affair and its fallout are being seen as a watershed in the US entertainment industry and beyond as powerful men — including two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey — are called out as abusers.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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