French Tycoon and Suspected Fraudster: I Gave Netanyahu 170,000 Euros

In TV interview, Arnaud Mimran contradicts prime minister and says money went into Netanyahu's private account.

Arnaud Mimran and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bertrand Guay, AFP/Reuters

French businessman and suspected fraudster Arnaud Mimran says that he donated 170,000 euros to Benjamin Netanyahu — an amount far higher than the $40,000 confirmed  by the Prime Minister’s bureau. In a conversation with Israel's Channel 10 TV broadcast on Monday night, Mimran — who is on trial in Paris for suspected fraud — also said that the amount was transferred in 2001 to Netanyahu’s private account, not to a public fund. Mimran confirmed the Prime Minister’s bureau’s claim that the donation did not go towards funding an election campaign.

“We were in contact, we had a friendly relationship, we traveled together, obviously,” said Mimran. He added that he funded some of Netanyahu’s vacations but emphasized: “Bibi never did anything wrong, he never tried to hide anything. First of all, I never said one million euros, I said one million. This was in 2001 so it was in French francs, amounting to 170,000 euros. Secondly, I did transfer money to him but there is some confusion here. This was in 2001. I came to celebrate his [electoral] victory in 2009. I have no connection to the money transfer. That [the visit] was eight years later.”

When asked to better define the amounts transferred he said: “I think it was in euros. Euros, dollars, you have to understand something: The amount I gave was transferred officially. He can check this in his account. It’s nothing he or I can hide. I remember 150; he says 40. I’m certain of what I say since I still have the bank statement. It’s from the private account of Arnaud Mimran to the private account of Benjamin Netanyahu.” Mimran was asked where the account was registered and he replied: “In Israel. It was in his name.” Regarding his 2009 visit celebrating Netanyahu’s victory, Mimran confirmed that he visited Netanyahu at a hotel. “Meir Haviv [a French Likud activist] was there and I think Sara [Netanyahu] and some of his friends were also there.”

On Monday morning, Netanyahu’s bureau commented on the affair and confirmed that Netanyahu received a $40,000 donation from Mimran in 2001, when he was a private citizen. “The claim that Mimran donated a million euros to Netanyahu’s election bid is an unfounded lie. There was no such donation. Mimran gave $40,000 to a fund for public action, which included media appearances and numerous trips overseas to explain Israel’s policies, all done in conformity with the law”, stated his bureau.

It was reported yesterday that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ordered the investigation of suspicions relating to Netanyahu that arose after Mimran’s testimony in a Paris court. Mimran is the chief defendant in a case involving a gigantic fraud labelled “the sting of the century.” He testified at the trial that he’d transferred one million euros to Netanyahu in support of the latter’s election campaign, but did not specify which campaign. During the hearings the head of the judges’ panel said that the payment is registered in the file as evidence. He also testified that he met Netanyahu in 2009 to celebrate his re-election as prime minister.

A joint investigation by Haaretz and the French news website Mediapart, published in April, showed that Mimran financed vacations for Netanyahu and his family in the Alps and on the French Riviera, as well as lending him a Paris apartment and taking him to a prestigious night club when Netanyahu visited Paris. Mimran’s name is highlighted in a list of donors’ names that Netanyahu compiled in 2002, published by Raviv Drucker on Channel 10.

Mimran is on trial for stealing at least 282 million euros from the French Treasury in fraudulent activities involving rolling over value-added tax payments related to carbon dioxide capping.