State Comptroller Lets Netanyahu Borrow $567,000 From Millionaire Friend to Pay Defense Fees

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during a ceremony in Hebron, September 4, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during a ceremony in Hebron, September 4, 2019.Credit: Tsafrir Abayov,AP
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel's State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman approved on Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to borrow up to two million shekel ($567,000) from American businessman Spencer Partrich, to help fund the premier's legal defense in a corruption case against the premier.

Partrich is known as a Netanyahu associate and has testified in Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving lavish gifts from wealthy acquaintances.

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By so doing Netanyahu bypasses the permits committee at the Comptroller's office which banned him from raising funds from Partrich to help offset his legal expenses.

The loan from Partrich is supposed to be granted on market terms.

The State Comptroller's Office said that Yosef Shapira, the previous comptroller with whom the request was originally filed, had approved the loan from Partrich on condition that it was given on market terms and the prime minister makes a conflict of interest arrangement.

There were reports recently that Netanyahu's lawyers had provided the comptroller with the loan agreement.

"The State Comptroller's Office has thoroughly examined the agreements, and upon concluding the examination the comptroller is satisfied that the loan that has been requested meets acceptable market terms," the office said.

Netanyahu will have to report the loan as part of his capital gains file.

After the request was originally submitted, sources at the Comptroller's Office told Haaretz it wasn't clear to them why Netanyahu hadn't taken a bank loan, since the loan from Partrich was, in any case, supposed to be given on market conditions.

Netanyahu told the comptroller that were he to receive such a loan from the bank it could create an impression of dependency and a conflict of interests. But, he said, that if he borrows from Partrich, who doesn't live in Israel and has no business ties with the country, such a situation could be avoided.

The permits committee rejected Netanyahu's request to accept contributions from Partrich and Matan Milikowsky, the premier's cousin.

The committee ordered Netanyahu to return $300,000 that he received from Milikowsky without a permit and paid to his wife's attorneys. Netanyahu said in a letter to the comptroller that he could only return a small portion of the money Melkowsky gave him because most of the money was used to pay for Sara Netanyahu's legal expenses.

According to the comptroller's statement, "the prime minister's attorneys said the loan was intended to cover the premier's legal expenses and the sums he was supposed to return to Mr. Milikowsky."

Partrich and Netanyahu have known one another for 20 years. Partrich's name appears in Raviv Drucker's "Bibi-Tours" investigation from 2011, where he was dubbed Netanyahu's "flying taxi" in the United States.

In 2016, Partrich purchased half of the Jerusalem home that belonged to Netanyahu's late parents from the prime minister's brother, Ido. He and the prime minister share ownership of the property.

Partrich was called to testify in the perks case, and told police investigators he had purchased suits for the prime minister, which the permits committee also made Netanyahu return to the businessman.

Earlier this month, Englman named new members for his office's permits committee, with some nominations raising concerns over the committee's impartiality.

The committee was expanded from three lawyers to eight people, most of whom have ties with Likud and other political parties and no legal expertise.

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