Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin, US businessman Nathan Milikowsky, invested earlier this year in a massive Greek steel conglomerate at the same time the prime minister was advancing a gas pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus, according to an exclusive report Sunday by The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, Zman Israel.
According to the report, in late June, Milikowsky’s company, Jordan International, bought Hellenic Steel, which for many years was Greece’s second-largest steel company.
The report notes that Hellenic Steel’s factory near Thessaloniki had been out of commission for five years amid Greece’s economic crisis, and only resumed its activity last week, with the new investment.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended the ceremony.
The report says Jordan International is expected to invest some 100 million euros ($110 million) in the factory, whose output is expected to reach some 350,000 tons’ worth of product per year.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Israel Natural Gas Lines company, the country’s national gas conglomerate, signed a memorandum with IGI Poseidon, a joint venture of the Public Gas Corporation of Greece and the Italian company Edison S.p.A., on the construction of a gas pipeline network that would connect the eastern Mediterranean’s gas reserves to the European market.
Israel has several natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, as does Cyprus.
Netanyahu has been among the key Israeli figures pushing for the signing of the pipeline deal as part of a broader Israeli strategy to develop closer strategic ties with Greece and Cyprus.
There is no evidence of coordination between Netanyahu and Milikowsky, but the convergence of Netanyahu’s regional energy policy and Milikowsky’s investment in a company that is closely reliant on the future of Greek economy was sure to raise eyebrows.
Netanyahu’s connections to Milikowsky have been the subject of scrutiny before. The prime minister has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support from Milikowsky, in order to fund his legal defense in the corruption investigations against him.
And according to reports earlier this year, Netanyahu made a return of over 700 percent on stock he had bought in Seadrift Coke, a steel company owned by Milikowsky that was sold to German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp, before it merged with GrafTech, also owned by Milikowsky.
ThyssenKrupp is tied to the high-profile Case 3000 investigation, which has snared several close associates of Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received bribes as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from the company.
Milikowsky: Netanyahu had no knowledge of the deal
“Hellenic Steel is in the business of manufacturing cold rolled and galvanized steel sheets,” Milikowsky told Zman Israel in an email. “It has no connection whatsoever with the manufacture of gas pipelines.
“The Prime Minister of Israel has no knowledge about this Hellenic Steel transaction. I have never discussed it with him. Furthermore, I am totally ignorant about the gas pipeline project and have no involvement with it.”