Newly leaked transcripts from the investigations of witnesses in one of the corruption cases facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveal close ties between now-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the two businessmen who are at the center of the illicit gifts affair known as Case 1000.
In the case, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving forbidden benefits from billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer in exchange for advancing their business interests.
According to the transcripts aired by Channel 13 news Monday evening, Milchan told police investigators he had become friendly with Cohen when Cohen was serving under former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.
Milchan told the investigator that when Cohen was a candidate to head the National Security Council in 2013, a position he eventually received, “I was asked if he would be loyal to the couple.” Asked to specify which couple, Milchan laughed and answered, “dad and mom,” an evident reference to Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. “I said I thought he’d be very loyal.”
Milchan said he introduced Cohen to Packer and the two became fast friends. At one point the three began discussing a joint business venture.
Hadas Klein, former aide to both Milchan and Packer, told police Cohen would visit Packer, swim in his pool and smoke his cigars, similar to Netanyahu. But, she added, “He was really scared that Netanyahu would find out he came there. One time when he heard that Sara [Netanyahu] had arrived at [Packer’s] house in Caesarea by surprise, he made a U-turn and canceled.”
Milchan and others testified that Cohen was in talks to join Packer and Milchan’s cybersecurity company, Blue Sky International, right up until his appointment as Mossad head in 2015.
Ze’ev Feldman, CEO of Blue Sky, told police: “After the appointment [of Cohen to head Mossad], in a conversation with Milchan, Arnon told me he made a big effort to push Cohen’s appointment.”
Netanyahu’s office denied to Channel 13 that he had ever asked about Cohen’s potential loyalty to him. Cohen’s office denied the entire report.
In August an unconfirmed report on the Walla news site claimed Netanyahu told associates he saw Cohen as a prospective successor after the prime minister’s departure from political life.
According to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the prime minister and his wife received from Milchan gifts amounting to NIS 701,146 ($195,000), with NIS 477, 972 ($130,000) worth of cigars, champagne and jewelry, and NIS 229,174 ($75,000) worth of cigars and champagne from Packer.
Mandelblit is due within weeks to announce his decision on whether to indict Netanyahu, who has denied wrongdoing, on charges of fraud and breach of trust in the case. The prime minister also faces corruption charges in two other cases.