PARIS – Arnaud Mimran was not the only French businessman to allegedly finance overseas vacations for the Netanyahu family, according to newly revealed documents.
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The documents were posted by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker on his blog. The files, which according to Drucker come from the prime minister's bureau, provide detailed records of all private trips made by Benjamin Netanyahu and his family during his time-out from politics between 1999-2001.
The time period they cover is currently the subject of public attention because it was during those years that Mimran – a French businessman currently standing trial in France for fraud – made a controversial donation to Netanyahu.
The Excel tables published by Drucker reveal another player in this drama: Meyer Habib. A friend of Netanyahu’s and a jeweler by profession, Habib currently represents French citizens living overseas in the French National Assembly.
The tables show that Habib financed several trips for the Netanyahu family over the course of many years.
One trip that stands out was taken by the Netanyahu family in fall 2000 and according to the document was financed by a company called Groupe Vendome.
Groupe Vendome is the name of Habib’s jewelry company. According to the evidence presented in Mimran’s ongoing trial, key prosecution witness Sammy Souied – who was Mimran’s partner in the alleged fraud – was murdered in Paris at the exact time and place where Mimran had arranged to meet him and give him a piece of jewelry made by Groupe Vendome – a gold ring embossed with a skull.
If Groupe Vendome indeed financed a trip by the Netanyahu family, this would be a grave violation of French corporate law, which bars companies from spending money on anything not directly related to advancing the interests of the company’s shareholders.
Financing a trip to Paris by Netanyahu and his family would seem to have no connection to Groupe Vendome’s business interests.
Habib was asked by Haaretz-Mediapart (the French online investigative and opinion journal working jointly with Haaretz on this story) to explain why he appears in the data.
“My company didn’t give one cent to Benjamin Netanyahu or any other politician,” he said. “All the gifts I gave were from my personal account, with full transparency and in full compliance with the law. I have no memory of any such gift to my friend Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The difference between Habib’s legal situation and Netanyahu’s is clear. Under Israeli law, the statute of limitations has already expired on any crime that might be revealed by the data. But under French law, the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations for white-collar crimes only when the crime first becomes known to the authorities, regardless of when it was actually committed.