Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan reportedly covered the cost of California acting classes for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair and had to send the premier a bill in order to be compensated.
In the latest batch of leaked transcripts from the police interrogation of Netanyahu, published Sunday by Channel 12, the prime minister brought up the classes his son took while he spent several weeks living at the Milchans in Los Angeles.
Netanyahu cited the expense, and how he had only learned about it after the fact, as an example of how he wasn’t always aware of the spending habits of his wife and children.
The prime minister had been asked by investigators to explain whether he knew the extent of requests his wife Sara made to Milchan and others for gifts.
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 James Packer, an Australian billionaire, gave Netanyahu and his wife gifts amounting to NIS 701,146 ($195,000), most of it in cigars and champagne.
“My wife and I — and you have to understand this — I do not know when she talks to Hadas and when Hadas comes,” Netanyahu told the interrogators in the Channel 12 transcripts, referring to Milchan’s personal assistant Hadas Klein, who had allegedly been the liaison to the Netanyahus when they made requests for expensive gifts from her boss.
“I’m only notified after the fact that Hadas had come by. I was not there. I have no idea what the two of them talked about. I really don’t know. I work 17 hours [a day]. When am I supposed to find out about this? I don’t check what [Sara] receives, how she receives it, when she receives it, from whom she receives it. I have no idea,” Netanyahu insisted.
To prove just how little he knew in real time, Netanyahu raised the example of his son’s acting classes.
“[Yair] came to Los Angeles, and Arnon — probably with Sara’s knowledge, I did not know — funded his acting lessons. A few thousand dollars. I found out after the fact. I did not know it, and here is an example where I said, when it comes to my son’s education, I want to pay. What, do I want Arnon Milchan to pay for Yair’s university tuition as well?” Netanyahu asked rhetorically, before asserting that he paid Milchan back immediately upon learning of the expense.
Unconvinced, based on the testimony they had been given by Milchan, one of the interrogators retorted that Netanyahu had only paid back the tycoon for the classes after Milchan’s assistant put in a special request. The prime minister insisted he had made the payment “on [his] own initiative.”
“You want me to tell you how it was? Refresh your memory?” the interrogator told the premier. “You got an invoice, Hadas reached out to your assistant and sent him an invoice asking [you] to pay for [the classes]. Nothing happened on your own initiative.”
“Oh please. I’m telling you that the moment I learned about [the expense] I said that we should pay it right away. I do not remember how it was [exactly]… but I have no problem paying out of my pocket,” Netanyahu responded.
“You brought it up, sir. They say you actually have a very hard time paying out of your own pocket. Everyone always says: He never has money on him, he never has his wallet on him, and that he never wants to spend any money,” the interrogator replied.
Apparently frustrated by the accusation, Netanyahu reportedly snapped back: “Listen to me! I’ve heard before the claim you’re making and now you will hear my answer. I have no problem paying out of my pocket. Do you hear what I’m telling you?”
Responding to the “joke” of a report, Netanyahu on Sunday blasted Channel 12 for insinuating that he did not pay for his son’s acting lessons and produced transcripts that he said came from Milchan’s police interrogation.
Investigator: “Did he say he would pay you?”
Investigator: “Did he pay you for it?”
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.
Mandelblit has said he intends to indict Netanyahu, who has denied wrongdoing, pending a hearing. Neither Milchan nor Packer have been charged.
The attorney general has agreed to a request from the prime minister to postpone the pre-indictment hearing from July to October, but last month rejected another request to postpone the hearing further.
Netanyahu had asked the attorney general for the additional delay in June, citing the recent April 9 elections, and the new election campaign underway for the September 17 vote.