Sara Netanyahu tells police she didn’t request gifts — report
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Sara Netanyahu tells police she didn’t request gifts — report

PM's wife said to deny couple had strict system in place to order high-end cigars, champagne and jewelry from billionaire benefactor

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the lobby for encouraging Bible study, at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, January 31, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the lobby for encouraging Bible study, at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, January 31, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sara Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, has reportedly denied to police that she demanded expensive gifts be given to the couple by billionaire Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, saying that anything he did give them was merely a token of generosity and friendship.

Giving testimony as part of the Case 1000 investigation into charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust made against her husband, Sara Netanyahu is said to have rejected claims made by both Milchan and his employees that she made specific orders for high-end items.

“I didn’t initiate anything. Milchan would tell me that he wanted to give us a bottle of wine. The quantities they are saying that he gave us are completely baseless. They are libeling us with things that never happened,” Sara Netanyahu told police investigators in January, according to a partial transcript of her testimony published by Channel 10 news on Sunday night.

Last week, leaked testimony from Milchan’s personal assistant Hadas Klein claimed that the Netanyahus demanded champagne, cigars and jewelry and had a strict system in place to order the so-called gifts.

“Sara would ask for bottles of champagne in cases of six or twelve. Bibi would ask for cigars and also knew about the amount of champagne his wife was receiving. The company driver would drive especially to Jerusalem to deliver the champagne and cigars,” Klein reportedly told police investigators, backing up previous reports of Milchan’s own testimony. “Sara would send me an email or call me and tell me that ‘the drink,’ i.e., the champagne was finished and request that I bring her more. And not only champagne, also cigars. There was an understanding that Arnon needed to provide the Netanyahus with whatever they wanted.”

In Sunday’s report, Sara Netanyahu was quoted saying that all her correspondence with Klein took pace after Milchan had offered gifts.

“My conversations with Hadas Klein took place after I had spoken with Milchan and he had asked me to work out how I wanted to receive the gifts that he wanted to give us via Hadas,” the transcript showed Sara Netanyahu saying.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

The case revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from Israeli-born Milchan.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have denied that receiving the gifts constitutes a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported, and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends.

While leaked reports of the police investigation have indicated that Milchan spent some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) on champagne and cigars for the Netanyahus over the best part of a decade, the prime minister and his wife have reportedly told police the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were unremarkable since the Milchans were their best friends.

Netanyahu is also a suspect in a second investigation, Case 2000, which is examining an alleged clandestine quid-pro-quo deal he made with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister was said to have promised Mozes he would hobble Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu was interrogated under caution for four hours Sunday evening — his sixth questioning session in the investigation. Channel 10 reported that police confronted Netanyahu with Klein’s testimony.

After the police grilling, Netanyahu took to Twitter to repeat his standard denial regarding the investigations.

“Also tonight I am sure: There will be nothing, because there is nothing,” he said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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