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State prosecutors reportedly to probe ex-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen

Former spy agency head says he accepted $20,000 gift from Australian tycoon after consulting with legal adviser; prosecutor Aisman said to be examining other allegations as well

(L) Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a Cyber conference at  Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90). (R) James Packer at a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
(L) Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a Cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90). (R) James Packer at a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The State Prosecutor’s Office will look into claims that Yossi Cohen, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, accepted an illicit gift worth $20,000, among other allegations, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit instructed State Attorney Amit Aisman to conduct a thorough investigation of the apparent serious allegations against Cohen that reached his and the state attorney’s office, the Kan public broadcaster and the Maariv news site reported Monday.

One of the suspected crimes involves Cohen receiving a gift worth $20,000 from billionaire Australian businessman James Packer for his daughter’s wedding — first reported by the Haaretz daily

In a TV interview in June, shortly after retiring as the head of the spy agency, Cohen spoke for the first time about the incident. He claimed to have accepted the funds after consulting the Mossad’s legal adviser, and said he is committed to returning the gift.

The other allegations against Cohen could not be detailed due to privacy laws, Kan reported. Once the initial examination is concluded, Mandelblit will decide if a full criminal investigation is required, the report said.

Last month, Channel 13 reported that Cohen is suspected of sharing classified information with a flight attendant with whom he was in close personal contact for the past two years. The report at the time said the incident was being reviewed by the attorney general’s office.

Then-Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman during a conference at Haifa University, November 23, 2017. (Screenshot: Youtube)

Cohen, 59, was recruited by Mossad at age 22 while studying in London, rising through its ranks to become its chief after a short stint as National Security Council chief.

Cohen, known as “the model” inside the agency, had an unusually public persona for an Israeli spy chief even as he oversaw operations against Iran’s nuclear program and helped guide Israel’s clandestine ties with Arab nations.

Related: In a stunning, revelatory interview, ex-Mossad chief warns Iran, defends Netanyahu

Cohen, who was appointed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he does not rule out seeking to become prime minister one day though he was not yet contemplating such an ambition.

Cohen had also denied any unlawful political relationship between himself and Netanyahu, when he was serving as the Mossad chief and the latter was prime minister.

He stepped down as head of the Mossad on June 1 after more than five years on the job. He was replaced by David Barnea.

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