Netanyahu Repays Cousin $30,000 in Legal Defense Fees Received Without Authorization

Committee satisfied with prime minister's written evidence, source says ■ Netanyahu not required to return remainder of $300,000 because most went to wife’s legal defense

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Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement following high tensions with Hezbollah at the Lebanon border, July 27, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement following high tensions with Hezbollah at the Lebanon border, July 27, 2020.Credit: Tal Shahar/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office that he had repaid $30,000 received without authorization from his cousin on Tuesday, the end of the 30-day period given by the committee last month.

The committee asked on July 5 that Netanyahu provide proof that he had repaid the sum to Nathan Milikowsky, which was used to fund the prime minister’s legal assistance.

Netanyahu provided the committee with written proof that it found satisfactory, according to a source.

The permits committee announced last month that Netanyahu would only have to repay $30,000 out of $300,000 he had received from Milikowsky, because most of the money had been used to cover Sara Netanyahu’s legal defense, and she is considered a private citizen. According to a document obtained by Haaretz, the committee reached its conclusion based on a declaration submitted in August by attorney Yechiel Weinroth, citing details of the income of his father’s firm, the late Jacob Weinroth, who had been Netanyahu’s attorney.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the High Court of Justice last month that funds received by the prime minister’s wife to pay for her legal defense should be examined to determine whether they constituted an indirect benefit to the prime minister.

The permits committee considered Sara Netanyahu a private citizen, and therefore not subject to the Israeli law that bars a cabinet minister from accepting the “payment of benefits” without permission. But Mendelblit argued that “a benefit to the minister’s wife or another person in his household can be considered a benefit to the minister” himself.

Mendelblit appeared before the High Court at a hearing on a petition by the Movement for Quality Government and the TLM anti-corruption movement seeking an order requiring the prime minister to reimburse the entire $300,000 that he received from his cousin.

The prime minister is indicted in three affairs known as Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000, cases that have been under investigation for more than three years.

The so-called Case 1000 involves lavish gifts that the prime minister allegedly received. Case 2000 involves contacts between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, in which the prime minister is alleged to have offered legislation favorable to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in exchange for favorable news coverage for the prime minister.

Case 4000 involves allegations of beneficial regulatory treatment for the Bezeq telecommunications firm in exchange for favorable news coverage for Netanyahu on Bezeq’s Walla news website through alleged contacts with Shaul and Iris Elovitch.

The evidentiary phase of his trial is to start in January 2021, with three sessions a week.

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