Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense lawyers on Monday requested that his wife, Sara, be present in the room in London when Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, a key witness in the premier’s ongoing corruption trial, testifies via video link.
The Jerusalem District Court last week okayed Milchan’s request to testify by video call from Israel’s embassy in London, after saying he couldn’t travel to Israel for health reasons. Prosecutors have requested he take the stand remotely starting June 18.
“Mrs. Netanyahu is knowledgeable and can give us indications to intervene if something is true or false,” Netanyahu’s attorney Amit Hadad said.
“My client would want to exercise his right to be in the hall when he testifies, but unfortunately this is impossible because the prime minister can’t be in London for two to three days,” Hadad told the court.
Instead, the prime minister will be present at court in Jerusalem to watch Milchan testify, the lawyer said.
Milchan is a witness in Case 1000, which revolves around luxury gifts received by Netanyahu and his family from wealthy benefactors, including Milchan, and quid pro quos he is accused of having provided in return. The indictment against Netanyahu alleges that he assisted Milchan with US visa issues and regulatory and tax benefits relating to his business interests.
The prosecution claims that Netanyahu assisted Milchan in exchange for an ongoing supply of luxury goods — including cigars, champagne and jewelry — to the premier and his wife, Sara. Netanyahu’s defense in Case 1000 has said that he was unaware his wife was receiving gifts from Milchan and another billionaire associate, James Packer.
Milchan was grilled several times by police during the investigation. He was last in Israel for questioning in 2016 and sat down with detectives overseas in 2017.
In addition to health concerns, the Haaretz daily reported Friday that the producer fears potential action against him and his family by Netanyahu’s supporters if he returns to Israel to testify, apparently due to instances of harassment against prosecutors and some witnesses — including death threats.
The report also noted Milchan’s travel over the past two years despite his claims of bad health, saying he flew by private jet between his properties in Bora Bora, Malibu, and Sussex County in England, and also visited Las Vegas.
Milchan was not charged in Case 1000, while Netanyahu was indicted for fraud and breach of trust. The premier is also charged with fraud in two other cases, and bribery in one of them. He denies all wrongdoing and claims without evidence that the charges are an effort by police, prosecutors, political rivals, the media, and others to force him from office.