‘I gave him gifts, asked for visa help’: Hollywood mogul testifies in Netanyahu trial

Netanyahu is under suspicion of graft and breach of trust for accepting lavish gifts in return for favors.

By World Israel News Staff

Hollywood billionaire Arnon Milchan testified remotely from a Brighton courthouse on Monday in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial, acknowledging that he had given hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts to the Israeli premier and his wife Sara, but seeming to maintain that the gifts were given in the spirit of friendship.

Known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is under suspicion of graft and breach of trust for accepting lavish gifts in return for favors, including helping Milchan with his US visa troubles.

Milchan’s detailed account of his interactions with Netanyahu reveals an intricate exchange of favors. On one occasion, Milchan arrived at the prime minister’s Balfour residence bearing gifts of champagne and cigars, and inquired about his visa status. Netanyahu, in response, directed his former chief of staff, Ari Harrow, to look into the matter.

However, Netanyahu was not the only notable figure whom Milchan reached out to regarding his visa complications. The businessman also contacted former Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, and US ambassador Dan Shapiro when he had to wait for months for his American visa. Milchan’s efforts eventually yielded fruit, as he received extensions on his visa.

Milchan’s interactions with Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also extended to discussions about a potential tax exemption law extension. Lapid had previously worked for Milchan in Los Angeles, and the two were also close.

Throughout his testimony, Milchan maintained that his relationship with Netanyahu was always on a legally unimpeachable footing. The businessman argued that the gifts he gave to Netanyahu did not influence their friendship, and he said the two men were like “brothers.” He did, however, acknowledge that once police investigators contacted him, he began thinking that the gifts were “excessive”.

When pressed on what he thought might happen if he refused to gift Netanyahu, Milchan claimed that he never wanted to turn him down due to their friendship. Defense attorney Amit Haddad dismissed as speculative a hint that Michan’s invitations to the prime minister’s Balfour residence were in peril if he chose to become more selective about showering the couple with gifts.

Milchan, of “Pretty Woman” fame, was in good spirits throughout and even made several wisecracks.