Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reiterated his rejection of the allegation that he received €1 million in campaign funding from Arnaud Mimran, but acknowledged for the first time that he had received a smaller sum from the accused French fraudster.
“The claim that Arnaud Mimran contributed €1 million to Mr. Netanyahu’s election campaign is a lie without any foundation. There was no contribution by Mimran to an election campaign of Netanyahu,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, a day after the attorney general said he would conduct an initial probe into the alleged illicit donation.
“In August 2001 when Netanyahu was a private citizen, Mimran donated $40,000 to a fund for Mr. Netanyahu’s public activity, which included many media appearances and public diplomacy campaigns abroad on behalf of the State of Israel, and which was conducted in accordance with the law.”
During his trial in France, Mimran said he had given €1 million ($1.1 million) in campaign contributions to Netanyahu in 2001, when the Israeli leader was not in public office.
Mimran is one of the main suspects in a trial over an alleged scam amounting to €283 million involving the trade of carbon emissions permits and the taxes on them.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said Sunday that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had ordered an examination of Mimran’s testimony “immediately after he became aware of it.”
Israeli law limits individual campaign contributions to NIS 11,480 (€2,670).
In a statement on June 5, the Prime Minister’s Office accused Mimran of committing another fraud by making a false claim about Netanyahu.
“Mr. Mimran, who is on trial for fraud in the range of several hundreds of millions of dollars, is trying to divert attention by means of another fraud,” the statement read.
If the donations were not campaign contributions, tax authorities would have to verify whether they were declared, said Moshe Negbi, legal expert for Israel Radio.
Netanyahu left the Prime Minister’s Office in 1999 after being defeated by Labor’s Ehud Barak. In 2002, he became foreign minister in then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government.
AFP contributed to this report.