Israel’s national police chief has confirmed that investigators recently questioned Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan as part of a corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Roni Alsheich told Israel’s Channel 10 TV station in an interview broadcast Wednesday that Milchan’s testimony, gathered in London, was significant. He declined to elaborate. His full interview is scheduled to be broadcast Friday.
Netanyahu is suspected of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy supporters, including Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
The Israeli leader denies any wrongdoing.
According to TV reports last week, Milchan denied during the interrogation that he bribed the premier and said the gifts he gave to Netanyahu and his wife Sara were not in exchange for the advancement of his business interests.
Milchan said there was no basis for the bribery allegations against him and that the hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cigars and champagne he reportedly gave to the Netanyahus stemmed from his years-long friendship with the family, Channel 2 reported last Wednesday.
The Channel 2 story followed reports in Hebrew media a day earlier that the interrogation of Milchan, which took place over a number of sessions two weeks ago in London, marked the first time the billionaire was questioned as a suspect in the criminal investigation known as Case 1000.
During the questioning, Milchan denied Netanyahu intervened on his behalf with former US secretary of state John Kerry to successfully obtain a 10-year US residency visa for him, saying he turned to many people to help and had only asked Netanyahu to clarify the status of his visa request, according to last Wednesday’s report.
Police said they were pleased with Milchan’s “excellent” testimony, as it furthered the suspicions against Netanyahu, unnamed legal officials were quoted by Channel 2 as saying. They also said police were not expected to charge Milchan in the case.
Milchan previously reportedly confirmed to police in previous testimony that he gave gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels to Netanyahu and his wife Sara over many years, but said he never expected anything in return. He is said to have later “dramatically” changed his story, altering the total amount that he spent on the gifts for the Netanyahus and the assertion that the prime minister was aware of the costs.
In addition to Case 1000, the prime minister is also being investigated in Case 2000, which involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.