Netanyahu’s Lawyer Resigns Over Unpaid Fees Days Before Second Corruption Trial Session

Attorney Micha Fettman says decision is in light of permits committee’s decision not to hear Netanyahu’s request to accept nearly $3 million from U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich to help fund his legal defense

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Attorney Micha Fettman at the opening on Netanyahu's corruption trial in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.
Attorney Micha Fettman at the opening on Netanyahu's corruption trial in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.Credit: Amit Shabi
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The attorney of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Micha Fettman, announced Wednesday he would be leaving the premier’s legal defense team over unpaid fees, just 10 days before the second session of Netanyahu's corruption trial.

Netanyahu was formally indicted in May in the Jerusalem District Court in three corruption cases, in which he has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust – allegations he denied. The prime minster also claimed that now that charges have been filed against him, he anticipates incurring major legal expenses to mount his defense.

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Fettman said his decision stems from the permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office’s decision not to discuss Netanyahu’s request to accept 10 million shekels (nearly $3 million) from U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich to help fund the legal defense.

In addition, some professional differences arose between Fettman and Netanyahu’s other attorney, Amit Hadad. Therefore, the investigative materials in Netanyahu’s trial were not transferred to Fettman and his role in the defense team was insignificant.  

Following Fettman’s resignation, Hadad is expected to ask to postpone Netanyahu’s second court session, which will focus on deciding when the trial’s evidence phase can start.

On Thursday, the committee also decided that Netanyahu must repay ten percent of the $300,000 he had previously received from his cousin Nathan Milikowsky without approval.

The permits committee said it relied on the legal opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in making their decision. Mendelblit’s opinion said the amount requested was higher than allowed by law governing gifts to public servants.

As for the $300,000 Netanyahu received from Milikowsky, the committee decided that most of the money had been used for Sara Netanyahu’s legal defense, and she is considered to be a private citizen.

In January, Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz reported that Netanyahu and his family owe at least 1.5 million shekels ($434,000) to some of their defense lawyers.

According to the report, in February of 2019, Navot Tel-Zur, then the head of Netanyahu’s defense team, asked the state comptroller’s office to let the prime minister accept donations from businessmen to pay for his legal expenses.

In his letter, Tel-Zur mentioned an unpaid bill of 50,000 shekels plus value-added tax to attorney Keren Shapira-Ettinger.

Moreover, The prime minister and his wife owe attorney Yossi Cohen, who has represented them for years, more than 1 million shekels.

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