Netanyahu withdraws request for legal defense money from his cousin
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Netanyahu withdraws request for legal defense money from his cousin

State comptroller has denied PM’s bid to receive funding from Nathan Milikowsky and other wealthy foreign benefactors to aid in corruption cases

File: Nathan Milikowsky in 2013, in San Francisco (Drew Altizer Photography)
File: Nathan Milikowsky in 2013, in San Francisco (Drew Altizer Photography)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team on Monday told the Permits Committee in the State Comptroller’s Office that it was withdrawing his request to receive funding for his legal defense from US businessman Nathan Milikowsky, his cousin.

The committee was set to rule on whether Netanyahu could receive $2 million from Milikowsky. Netanyahu said he would instead appeal for funding from Spencer Partrich, and was considering requesting money from another donor instead of Milikowsky.

The defense team also announced that it was refusing the preliminary conditions for a meeting offered by the committee, which included a declaration of assets as well as the full details of the relationship between Netanyahu and Partrich.

Netanyahu has unsuccessfully sought permission from Israeli authorities for Milikowsky to fund his legal defense in the three corruption cases the prime minister is facing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, April 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In February the Permits Committee ruled for a second time that wealthy acquaintances could not foot Netanyahu’s defense bills in the pending corruption indictments against him. It first turned him down in December.

The panel said it was inappropriate for non-Israeli benefactors to pay for the prime minister’s legal defense in a criminal case relating to his alleged receipt of funds from wealthy benefactors in Israel and abroad.

The committee also ruled that money Netanyahu had already received from associates was improper and ordered him to return $300,000 to Milikowsky, and to give back business attire to Partrich.

The committee demanded that Netanyahu exhaust his own means of funding his defense before seeking financial help elsewhere.

In March, the High Court of Justice ruled that Netanyahu could apply for a third time for permission to seek funding from wealthy foreign benefactors for his legal defense.

Netanyahu’s business affiliation with Milikowsky was revealed recently by the Permits Committee during research leading up to its rejection of a request to retroactively approve the $300,000 donation by Milikowsky.

Milikowsky and Partrich were questioned by police last year in the investigation dubbed “Case 1000,” in which the prime minister is suspected of receiving some NIS 1 million ($282,000) in illicit gifts from businessmen.

Spencer Partrich (Courtesy)

In February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, in that case, as well as two others, dubbed by police as cases 2000 and 4000. The prime minister denies all the allegations.

Netanyahu and Milikowsky have also been linked indirectly to the so-called submarine affair, or Case 3000, a massive alleged graft scheme surrounding the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. The prime minister has so far not been considered a suspect in the case.

Recent reports have suggested Netanyahu made a return of over 700 percent on stocks in Seadrift Coke, a steel company owned by Milikowsky that sold to 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.

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