The operative who duped at least one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers in a bid to quash the sexual assault allegations against the now-disgraced Hollywood producer has spoken publicly for the first time, saying she was just trying to uncover the truth.
Israel’s Channel 12 on Friday broadcast excerpts from an interview with Stella Penn Pechanac, a former employee of Black Cube, the private Israeli intelligence firm that Weinstein hired to suppress allegations he sexually assaulted and harassed dozens of women.
In 2017 the Daily Mail identified Pechanac as the woman who introduced herself to one of Weinstein’s main accusers, actress Rose McGowan, using the alias “Diana Filip,” posing as a women’s rights advocate working for a London-based investment company.
Pechanac met with 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whether the actress was planning to go public with her rape allegation against Weinstein, and even obtained the unpublished manuscript of the actress’s memoir.
In the interview, Pechanac was asked if she felt comfortable deceiving an alleged sexual assault victim on behalf of an abuser.
“I didn’t only go to her, I always feel comfortable when I am approaching people in order to try and discover the truth,” she said. “My aim was to discover if someone was running a negative campaign against Weinstein, and if so, who was behind it.”
She also noted that at the time, the many allegations against Weinstein had not yet come out.
“At the time he was really not a monster. He was not the man we know him to be today,” she said.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak has admitted to making the connection between Weinstein and Black Cube, though he has said he did not know why Weinstein was interested in the company’s services.
“When a former prime minister connects you to a very powerful man who looks you in the eye and says that ‘There is nothing to these accusations, I am under attack and need your help’ — so I went out to find out the truth,” she said.
The New Yorker revealed that Weinstein employed Black Cube for $1.3 million in order stop the publication of the abuse allegations against him.
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.
More than 15 lawsuits have been filed accusing Weinstein for misconduct. Weinstein also faces criminal charges in New York of rape and performing a forcible sex act. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.
Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
According to previous reports, during her meeting with McGown, 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.
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.”
The address listed for Rueben Capital Partners’ headquarters in London is home to an office space rental company.
The only reference to Pechanac online is a brief bio of her involvement in an educational job-placement initiative. According to Recalculating the Educational Route, Pechanac immigrated to Israel in 1994 from Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.
She served as a lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force and is a graduate of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, as well as the prestigious Nissan Nativ acting school. She speaks Serbo-Croatian, Hebrew, English and conversational Spanish, and currently lives in Jaffa with her husband, whom she married in 2014.
Before immigrating to Israel during the Bosnian war, Pechanac’s family converted to Judaism from Islam. During the Holocaust, her grandparents hid Jews in their Sarajevo home, which was situated across from the Gestapo’s Yugoslavia headquarters.
Through their connections, the Pechanacs fabricated Christian identification documents for dozens of Jews to flee to Italy and Palestine.
Her grandfather was jailed for his efforts, and later sent to a concentration camp where he was killed. In 1985, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial honored the Pechanacs as “Righteous Gentiles.”
Nearly a decade later, in the thick of the Bosnian conflict, Israel evacuated the Pechanacs on the last convoy of Jews rescued from the war-torn city.
Agencies contributed to this report