Milchan’s lawyers decry police treatment in Netanyahu graft crase
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Milchan’s lawyers decry police treatment in Netanyahu graft crase

Attorneys for Hollywood billionaire say part of his testimony is invalid, as he was not warned he was being interrogated under caution

Arnon Milchan (Flash90)
Arnon Milchan (Flash90)

Lawyers for Arnon Milchan, an Israeli-born Hollywood billionaire suspected by police of bribing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with gifts, decried law enforcement’s treatment of their client in the criminal investigation.

Police on Tuesday recommended Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in a pair of cases involving suspicions he accepted favors from businessmen in exchange for advancing their interests. In one of the investigations, known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is alleged to have received NIS 1 million worth of gifts, including NIS 750,000 ($212,000) from Milchan.

In a statement to Hadashot TV news Friday, Milchan’s attorneys said part of the testimony he gave was invalid, as he was not warned he was being questioned under caution the first four of the six total times he was interrogated by police.

Following Tuesday’s announcement by police, Milchan’s lawyer said the police recommendation “ignored basic facts,” including that Netanyahu and Milchan have been friends since the 2000s, when Netanyahu was not in government.

“Their connection has been characterized by friendliness. In this context, gifts were given to the Netanyahu family from time to time, without any business interest. We are sure that a serious look at the full material will lead to one necessary conclusion: there is no basis for a bribery charge,” the attorney said.

Netanyahu has also denied acting improperly on behalf of Milchan and said the Hollywood mogul is a friend.

Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu attend a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 28, 2005. (Flash90/File)

A statement from police said investigators had gathered enough evidence to charge Milchan with bribe-giving.

“The results of the investigation show that the relationship between the prime minister and Mr. Milchan was a relationship of bribery reaching criminal levels, and not an innocent relationship between friends,” the police summary reads.

Among the measures benefiting Milchan, Netanyahu is suspected of trying to extend a 2008 tax exemption and tax reporting exemption on income from abroad to new immigrants and returning residents, known as the “Milchan Law.” Milchan would allegedly have saved millions through the measure had it not been thwarted by the Treasury.

Netanyahu is also accused of using his connections to try to arrange a renewed US visa for Milchan, whose main business is in Hollywood.

In addition, Milchan and Netanyahu promoted a free trade zone near the Jordan-Israel border that personally benefited Milchan, a trade holder, and pushed for a deal to merge Israeli media outlets, one partly owned by Milchan, according to police.

Netanyahu is suspected of receiving gifts worth another NIS 250,000 ($70,000) from Australian businessman James Packer, at Milchan’s request, though police did not call for bribery charges against him.

Police also recommend Netanyahu’s indictment in Case 2000, in which the premier is alleged to have negotiated a quid quo pro deal with Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, in which the newspaper would provide favorably coverage of the prime minister in exchange for support for a legislative effort to clamp down on rival tabloid Israel Hayom.

Publisher and owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper Arnon ‘Noni’ Mozes arrives for questioning at the Lahav 433 investigation unit in Lod, January 15, 2017. (Koko/Flash90)

Mozes faces possible charges for offering alleged bribes. Like Milchan, he also denies wrongdoing.

Police say Mozes and Netanyahu negotiated a deal by which the daily would provide favorably coverage of the prime minister in exchange for support for a legislative effort to clamp down on rival tabloid Israel Hayom.

From 2009 “Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes held conversations and personal meetings during which they discussed helping each other as a quid pro quo to advance their respective interests,” said police.

Furthermore, the investigation revealed “that the sides took actual active steps in advancing each others interests in continuation of the understandings reached between them, or at least presented to each other as if they had acted that way.”

Police said that Netanyahu offered his support for a bill to close Israel Hayom, to help shrink the newspaper’s circulation numbers, and to nix the free daily’s weekend edition. The law did not pass, as the government folded and went to elections in 2015.

Mozes’s lawyer said he had a good defense.

“We believe that, after further examination of the findings in the State Prosecutor’s Office, the case against him will be closed, and it will become clear that he did not commit a criminal offense,” the attorney said.

Netanyahu also said the recommendations would amount to nothing in a speech Tuesday evening. He noted that he had often worked against Milchan’s interests and that he had taken apart the government and called new elections in order to prevent the anti-Israel Hayom bill from going through.

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