Netanyahu petitions High Court to allow tycoons to cover his legal defense

PM seeks to overturn State Comptroller committee that twice ruled that wealthy acquaintances cannot fund his attorneys in corruption cases against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, March 10, 2019. (GALI TIBBON/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, March 10, 2019. (GALI TIBBON/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Monday against a state panel decision to ban tycoon acquaintances of his from footing his hefty legal bills in the pending corruption indictment he faces.

Netanyahu’s attorney Navot Tel-Zur sent the petition two weeks after the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee rejected, for the second time, the prime minister’s request to allow him to accept financial backing in the three corruption cases against him.

The committee had also ruled that funds already received from Netanyahu’s associates were improper, and that he would have to return $300,000 to his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and business attire given by American millionaire Spencer Partrich.

After State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s office in December denied Netanyahu’s request for permission to have businessman Milikowsky, who is based in the US, and Partrich cover his legal fees, the premier’s defense team in January filed a renewed request asking for permission to receive a million dollars in the first phase and $2 million later on. Netanyahu also reportedly said he would pay $100,000 out of pocket to help fund his legal defense.

That request was also rejected.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira attends the presentation of the State Comptroller’s report at the Knesset, March 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At the end of last month, after the Permits Committee decision, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced he would indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, in all three of the cases against the prime minister.

Among the allegations in the cases against him, the prime minister is suspected of receiving benefits from rich benefactors in return for using his offices to advance their interests. In its December decision, the Comptroller’s Permits Committee said it was inappropriate for non-Israeli benefactors to pay for his legal defense in a criminal case relating to the premier receiving funds from wealthy benefactors.

Last year, both Milikowsky and Partrich were questioned by police in the investigation dubbed Case 1000, in which the prime minister and his wife were suspected of receiving some NIS 1 million ($282,000) in illicit gifts from businessmen in return for certain benefits.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Avichai Mandelblit at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

In addition to the investigation into the gifts he received from billionaire benefactors, Netanyahu is suspected of corruption in two other probes — cases 2000 and 4000 — involving potential quid pro quo deals for regulatory favors or beneficial legislation in exchange for positive media coverage.

Mandelblit has said he intends to indict Netanyahu for bribery in Case 4000, as well as lesser charges of fraud and breach of trust in the other two affairs.

The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing in the cases and vows to still lead his Likud party after the coming Knesset elections.

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