Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have profited from sales made by his cousin’s company to unknown entities in Libya in 2007 and 2008, in violation of US nuclear nonproliferation regulations, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday.
The prime minister’s cousin Nathan Milikowsky told the Huffington Post that Netanyahu did not know about the deals with Libya. A spokesperson for the premier said Netanyahu was only a passive investor in SeaDrift Coke, which supplied the company owned by Milikowsky, C/G Electrodes.
According to the report, C/G Electrodes was charged by the US Department of Commerce with selling electrodes to Libya on 23 occasions, with a combined value of $6.8 million. C/G Electrodes was fined $250,000 for the violations.
At the time of the sales, SeaDrift Coke was the main supplier of raw materials to C/G Electrodes for the production of the electrodes, which are essential in the production of steel.
According to the Huffington Post, that means “Netanyahu likely benefited from the Libya sales” due to his ownership of shares in SeaDrift Coke.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Milikowsky said the prime minister did not know about the Libya sales and said the premier was a passive investor in SeaDrift Coke.
A spokesperson for the prime minister also told Huffington Post that Netanyahu was a passive investor, adding that he took no role in SeaDrift’s management or business. The spokesperson reportedly did not respond to a question over whether the prime minister was aware of the sales to Libya.
The sales were made during Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s time in power. Gaddafi frequently called for the destruction of Israel and funded various Palestinian terror groups, including the Black September Organization, which carried out the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games. He reportedly asked for Israel’s help to stem Western coalition airstrikes on his country during the 2011 uprising that led to his downfall.
Netanyahu is already under pressure over his involvement with SeaDrift, which has ties to ThyssenKrupp and plays a role in the high-profile Case 3000 investigation. That investigation has snared several close associates of Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received illicit funds as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from the German shipbuilder. Some have called it the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history.
Four deals involving Israel and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp are linked to the probe.
Having previously claimed he obtained the SeaDrift shares when he was a private citizen, Netanyahu then appeared to change his story, admitting he became a shareholder in 2007 while serving as the leader of the opposition, Haaretz reported. The Marker website has reported a different timeline, saying Netanyahu purchased the SeaDrift shares in April 2005, when he was the finance minister.
According to the Huffington Post report, Netanyahu purchased the SeaDrift shares in August 2007 — one month after C/G Electrodes began making sales to Libya.
Netanyahu sold his SeaDrift shares to Milikowsky on November 29, 2010, 20 months after being elected prime minister.
But questions have been raised about Netanyahu’s selling of his shares for NIS 16 million ($4.5 million) — reportedly four-to-seven times more than the amount he paid for the shares several years earlier. Analysts have said the premier received the shares from his cousin “virtually for free.”
Netanyahu’s political opponents have accused the premier of a possible conflict of interest in the ThyssenKrupp deals linked to the probe, and have alleged he may have benefited financially.
Netanyahu’s business affiliation with Milikowsky was revealed recently by the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee, during research leading up to its rejection of a request to retroactively approve a $300,000 donation by Milikowsky and businessman Spencer Partrich to fund Netanyahu’s legal defense in three other cases in which he faces corruption charges.