Israel-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan told police investigators he felt “disgusted” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara’s requests for gifts, according to a Thursday report by Channel 12 news.
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 cigars and champagne.
In portions of Milchan’s testimony aired by Channel 12, the mogul is asked whether Sara Netanyahu ever gave him gifts.
“Do you want me to fall on the ground laughing? The answer is no,” Milchan is quoted as saying.
Asked whether the prime minister had given him gifts, he said “Do you know him as a person who gives presents?”
Milchan told investigators how the prime minister would refer to cigars as “leaves” and Sara would refer to champagne as “pinks” when they made requests to have the items delivered.
“He would phone and say, ‘Hey, are there any leaves?’ Netanyahu calls cigars ‘leaves.’ In Cuba they grow and fold them, right?” he said.
Asked whether the Netanyahus also asked for cigars and champagne when Milchan was overseas, he said that requests for champagne were made when he was out of Israel as well.
Milchan also spoke about the relationship between the Netanyahus’ son, Yair, and Packer — a relationship that Milchan thought was inappropriate.
“I talked with Bibi about the fact that Yair was spending a lot of time with Packer. I told him that I didn’t think it was healthy, that rumors were circulating about his son, the son of the prime minister, who was hanging around in James Packer’s apartment,” he said.
Asked about the prime minister’s reaction, Milchan stated, “He said, ‘Yair is a grown-up, I can’t tell him who to be friends with.’ I expected a different answer.”
A response issued on behalf of the prime minister said, “We will add this distorted leak that is full of lies to the 124 leaks we have already submitted to the attorney general. The punishment for any criminal leak like this is up to three years in jail. We ask once more, when will even one complaint of all those we have submitted be investigated?
“And by the way, over the years, the Netanyahu family has given many presents to Arnon Milchan, his wife and children.”
According to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the prime minister and his wife received gifts amounting to NIS 701,146 ($195,000), with NIS 477,972 ($130,000) worth of cigars, champagne and jewelry from Milchan, and NIS 229,174 ($75,000) worth of cigars and champagne from Packer.
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 one request from the prime minister to postpone the pre-indictment hearing from July to October, but on Thursday rejected another request to postpone the hearing further.
Netanyahu had asked the attorney general for the additional delay on Wednesday, citing the recent April 9 elections, and the new election campaign underway for the September 17 vote.