Israeli officials have failed to follow up on testimony by a French tycoon that he gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about one million euros to cover election campaign expenses.
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The claim was made by accused fraudster Arnaud Mimran in a Paris court two weeks ago.
In addition to Mimran’s testimony, the judges in Mimran’s trial said there was other evidence proving that Netanyahu was given money, though they did not elaborate.
Netanyahu has called Mimran’s testimony “lies and falsehood.”
The issue to likely to be discussed during an expected meeting between Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and senior prosecutors next week. The main items on the agenda of the meeting will be the cases involving expenses at the prime minister’s official residence and the funding of flights for Netanyahu and his family when he was finance minister.
“Questions received regarding the testimony of Arnaud Mimran in France are being handled and have yet to be answered,” the Justice Ministry said. The ministry has been approached about the issue by Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and attorney Shahar Ben Meir.
Mimran is facing trial on charges of stealing at least 282 million euros from the French Finance Ministry through a deception involving rolling over value-added tax in deals relating to carbon dioxide capping.
The alleged funding of Netanyahu came up when Mimran was asked by the prosecution why he had traveled to Israel 10 times in 2009. Mimran said that on one of his trips he came alone to meet with Netanyahu, to which the head judge on the panel responded, “Indeed, in the evidence file there is record of your payment to him.”
Mimran’s lawyer objected, saying that the information “only appeared in a newspaper,” but the judge rebuffed him, saying, “No, dear sir, it certainly appears in the evidence file here in front of me.”
Mimran himself said, “I funded Netanyahu to the tune of around a million euros. It was for his election campaign. Then, in 2009, when he was indeed reelected prime minister of Israel, I went to Israel and we met.” The judge asked if he ever got the money back, and Mimran said that he had not.
Mimran did not say for which election campaign he had given Netanyahu the money. Under the law governing campaign contributions and according to instructions issued by the state comptroller, a Knesset candidate may not accept more than 11,480 shekels ($2,980) from an individual. In elections for leadership of a party or in internal party primaries in which there are more than 50,000 voters, a candidate can accept individual donations of up to 45,880 shekels ($11,970.)
A joint investigation by Haaretz and the French website Mediapart, published in April, showed that Mimran financed vacations for Netanyahu and his family in the Alps and on the French Riviera. Mimran also lent Netanyahu his apartment in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, taking him to a prestigious nightclub during Netanyahu’s visit to Paris.
During his questioning before trial, Mimran said that he was the marketing manager of the nightclub. “I brought a lot of famous people to the club, and this improved its image; people such as Mr. Netanyahu, so the owners were very pleased,” he said.
Arnaud’s name appears, with emphasis, on a list of foreign campaign donors compiled by Netanyahu in 2002 that was revealed by journalist Raviv Drucker on Channel 10 News.