Court Delays Testimony From ex-Netanyahu Aide Amid New Corruption Allegations

Nir Hefetz's testimony has been delayed to allow the defense team to prepare, after the assistant to another key witness, Arnon Milchan, revealed her boss bought expensive gifts for Sara Netanyahu

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Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in his first court appearance since February, this morning
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in his first court appearance since February, this morningCredit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The testimony of Benjamin Netanyahu's former right-hand man, Nir Hefetz, was postponed by a week on Tuesday morning, as the prosecution continues investigating fresh allegations of corruption against the former prime minister. 

The judges granted the defense's request for a delay, stating they should be given time to prepare in light of the new materials from the investigations.   

The State Prosecutor's Office announced on Monday that it investigated new allegations against Netanyahu, after the personal assistant of Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan – a key witness for the state in the case – told prosecutors that she had new information about her boss relating to the corruption trial. 

A source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said that on October 24, Milchan’s personal assistant, Hadas Klein, told police that her boss and the Australian billionaire businessman James Packer delivered three bracelets to Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the former prime minister, including one valued at $45,000. In her deposition, Klein stated that Sara Netanyahu had asked for the jewelry.

Former Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz outside the courtroom, Tuesday.Credit: Emil Salman

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in court for the first time since February for Hefetz's testimony, before the court had decided whether he would take oath. Netanyahu's attorney, Amit Hadad, said that the defense team was blindsided by the prosecution's announcement that it had carried out the new investigation, and only heard about it from media reports.

"We were basically in the dark," he said. "I called the prosecution's representatives, and they told me that they can't say anything." He added, "It is unacceptable that we end up in a situation like this when an additional investigation is carried out. We don't understand the aim of the additional investigation in this case, as they questioned Milchan and Klein but not Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither of them were investigated, so there is no intention of revising the indictment."   

In a statement issued on Monday, the Netanyahu family said that "the details concerning Sara Netanyahu are not true."

Netanyahu’s defense team is arguing that “it is permitted to receive gifts from friends.” According to Netanyahu’s attorneys, Milchan gave him the gifts because the two are friends, and Netanyahu was not aware of the requests made by his family members.

Regarding the emergence of the evidence, Klein said her lawyer had instructed her to answer the detectives’ questions only, without volunteering any information. She only told prosecutors on October 11 that she had information that was relevant to the case and unknown to the prosecutors, who then looked into the evidence.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in court in Jerusalem for the first time since February, this morning

According to the indictment in so-called Case 1000, Klein was responsible for coordinating the delivery of the gifts that Milchan gave to the former prime minister and his wife, and for receiving the couple’s requests. Klein told police that she saw to the delivery of Champagne and cigars to the prime minister’s residence, purchased at the Netanyahus’ request. “Sara requested Champagne in cases of 6 or 12 [bottles], Bibi asked for cigars and knew how much Champagne his wife received. The company’s driver would drive especially to Jerusalem to deliver the Champagne and cigars,” Klein told police.

Outside the court, right-wing protesters jeered and cursed at two journalists arriving to cover the trial. Video from the scene showed Baruch Kara, Channel 13's legal analyst, and Aviad Glickman, the channel's legal correspondent, being followed by shouting protesters. One protester used her walking stick to knock the kippa off of Kara's head. Kara said he would not file a complaint against that protester. He also addressed those who had shouted at him to remove his kippa, saying that "it is here to stay, precisely because it represents something so different from you."

In Case 1000, Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly receiving gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from Milchan and Packer. According to the indictment, the former prime minister received cigars and Champagne from the two over the course of several years. Netanyahu’s family members, the indictment states, also demanded and received gifts from the businessmen, and Netanyahu was aware of this fact.

Itay Stern contributed to this article. 

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