Israeli Police Suspect Netanyahu Received Favors From Millionaire Spencer Partrich

Spencer Partrich, a businessman described as Netanyahu's air taxi in the United States, testified about his relations with the prime minister in recent years

 Spencer M. Partrich in 2006.
Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

Investigators from the national fraud unit of the Israel Police recently took testimony from American millionaire Spencer Partrich, a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about gifts and favors that Partrich purportedly gave the prime minister over the years.

The questioning came in Case 1000, the police investigation of favors that Netanyahu allegedly received from wealthy individuals over the years, including Israeli-American Hollywood businessman Arnon Milchan.

As reported by Haaretz several months ago, Partrich recently purchased a half-interest in the Jerusalem home of Netanyahu’s late parents from Iddo Netanyahu, the prime minister’s brother. As a result, in practice, Partrich became the partner in the property of the prime minister, who owns the other half interest. Israeli Tax Authority data indicate that Partrich paid 4.2 million shekels ($1.15 million) for his share of the property.

Both the seller, Iddo Netanyahu, and the buyer, Partrich, were represented in the transaction by attorney David Shimron, the prime minister’s personal attorney and confidant, who also handled the estate of the prime minister’s father, Benzion Netanyahu.

The prime minster was not a party to the transaction and Shimron’s office has represented Iddo Netanyahu for years, a response on behalf of the Netanyahu brothers and Partrich stated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem April 23, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/AP

Partrich, who lives in a wealthy Detroit suburb, owns several companies in the United States, mainly in real estate, and is active in the Jewish and pro-Israel community in the United States. He is not known to have business interests in Israel. Partrich purchased the photographic archive of Paul Goldman, which documents the British Mandate period and Israel’s early years. Partrich was also a contributor to the Republican presidential primary campaign of Florida Senator Marco Rubio last year.

In the investigation of suspicions of alleged improper funding of flights abroad by Netanyahu and his family when Netanyahu was finance minister between 2003 and 2005, Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker unearthed a document listing Netanyahu supporters and contributors. Partrich was described as follows: “Friend. Wealthy. N.’s air taxi in the United States. Hadn’t contributed directly but helps through deeds.”

Partrich was one of a number of individuals living abroad who recently provided their testimony while visiting Israel around the Passover holiday.

They also included Netanyahu’s cousin, businessman Nathan Milikowsky. Netanyahu claimed in the past that some of the boxes of cigars he received were purchased with cash he received from his cousin. A response on the prime minister’s behalf stated that the reporting on Milikowsky’s testimony was nonsense. "The prime minister’s cousin has helped him for decades, and that’s allowed, above board and legal. We repeat, there was nothing and there will be nothing.”

A number of businesspeople have testified that over the years they gave gifts to Netanyahu. Key among them is Milchan, who was summoned in November for the first time to provide testimony at the offices of the national fraud squad. At that time he said that over the years he had acceded to the demands of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, and purchased hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cigars, champagne, coats and an expensive piece of jewelry for them.

In his second round of testimony, which Milchan gave overseas, he softened some parts of his version of events. Senior prosecution officials say that testimony given by Milchan’s Israeli assistant, Hadas Klein, is essential to the case. Her testimony was seen as credible and supported by documents and invoices.

The Justice Ministry is still hoping to obtain testimony from Milchan’s partner, Australian James Packer. As reported in Haaretz recently, at some point Milchan is said to have asked Packer to chip in for part in the cost of the gifts Milchan was asked to purchase for Netanyahu and his wife.

Packer was in Israel a few months ago, when investigators already had leads and information about systematic gift-giving, and he was not asked for his testimony in time. Over the past few months, he has been abroad. “There has been an efforts to obtain his testimony but it has run into difficulty,” a source told Haaretz.

Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor Partrich responded to an inquiry from Haaretz regarding whether the prime minister received favors from Partrich.