Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday lashed out at the Ynet news site for reporting that police had opened a preliminary investigation into a decade-old stock deal with his cousin, US businessman Nathan Milikowsky.
Police also issued a rare statement denying the claims made in the report.
Noting that they do not usually comment on news articles, police said they chose to do so in this case due to the “sensitivity and public significance” of the case.
The report claimed that Lahav 433 anti-fraud investigators collected testimony from a person who provided recordings and evidence regarding Netanyahu’s “problematic” purchase of shares in Milikovsky’s US-based firm.
According to the report, Netanyahu never paid Milikowsky the $600,000 for the shares he acquired in 2007.
Netanyahu denied the claims made in the report and accused the publication of attempting to smear him.
“It seems there are some in the media who haven’t yet accepted the election results,” he said in a statement. “The days are over when fake news is published in the media to push for futile investigations against Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
Recent reports have suggested Netanyahu made a return of over 700 percent on the stocks in Seadrift Coke, a steel company owned by Milikowsky that sold to German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp before it merged with GrafTech, also owned by Milikowski.
Netanyahu bought the shares for $600,000 in 2007 and then sold them back in 2010 to Milikowsky for $4.3 million shortly after the merger. The dramatic profit has led to speculation of possible impropriety in Netanyahu’s financial dealings.
The sale of the shares is being tied to the so-called submarine affair, or Case 4000, a massive alleged graft scheme surrounding the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from Thyssenkrupp. The prime minister has so far not been considered a suspect in the case.
The Blue and White Party, which is widely expected to lead the opposition in the next Knesset, has said it would appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate the suspicions.
Netanyahu’s business affiliation with Milikowsky was revealed recently by the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee, during research leading up to its rejection of a request to retroactively approve a $300,000 donation by Milikowsky and businessman Spencer Partrich to fund Netanyahu’s legal defense in three other cases in which he faces corruption charges.