Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from his wealthy cousin to fund his legal defense in the corruption cases against him, without receiving the necessary approval from the State Comptroller.
Netanyahu on Tuesday resubmitted a request to the state ombudsman to allow his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and US tycoon Spencer Partrich to cover legal expenses relating to the three probes against him, one of which involves gifts he received from billionaire benefactors.
The State Comptroller’s Permits Committee last month denied an earlier request by Netanyahu to approve funding from Milikowsky and Partrich, saying it was inappropriate for his legal fees to be covered by tycoons when he is under suspicion of illicit financial ties with such associates.
But on Thursday, the Haaretz daily reported that the 25-page resubmitted request written by Netanyahu’s attorney Navot Tel-Zur mentioned that Milikowsky has already given the prime minister $300,000 to fund fees paid to lawyers who have represented Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in the three cases.
The donation was handed to Netanyahu without the necessary approval from the permits committee, according to the report, which didn’t detail when the payment or payments were made.
It said that if the committee again rejects Netanyahu’s request, it will have to also examine Milikowsky’s payment.
Netanyahu’s legal team responded to the report by saying that “all the questions [on the topic] have been answered.”
Last year, both Milikowsky and Partrich were questioned by police in the Netanyahu investigation dubbed Case 1000, in which the prime minister and his wife are suspected of receiving some NIS 1 million ($282,000) in illicit gifts from businessmen in return for certain benefits. In his testimony, Partrich admitted to police that he had bought Netanyahu a number of expensive suits, but said Milikowsky paid him back for them, Haaretz reported in January.
The Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday that Netanyahu’s latest request to the State Comptroller contains details absent in the previous one, raising the chances it will be approved. The Permits Committee had faulted the prime minister for not including the amounts he was seeking from the donors, how much has already been contributed, and to which cases the money would be designated.
If approved, the outside funding for Netanyahu’s legal bills is expected to amount to several million dollars, that report said.
Netanyahu’s net worth is estimated at NIS 42 million ($11 million), Forbes Israel reported in 2015, making him the fourth-richest politician in Israel at the time and the richest member of the current 120-seat Knesset.
In addition to the investigation into the gifts he received from billionaire benefactors, Netanyahu is being investigated in two other probes — cases 2000 and 4000 — involving potential quid pro quo deals for regulatory favors in exchange for positive media coverage.
Police have recommended that he be indicted for bribery in all three cases, a charge that state prosecutors reportedly also favor in at least one of the cases.
He has denied wrongdoing, and has accused police, media, and law enforcement of waging a witch hunt against him.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is currently reviewing the cases and weighing whether to announce his intention to indict Netanyahu before April’s elections, which the premier has called on him not to do.
Media reports have indicated that Mandelblit will announce his decision on a possible indictment, pending a hearing, in February.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.