Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara may have received an estimated total sum of 650,000 to 700,000 shekels ($170,000-$184,000) in gifts from billionaire businessman Arnon Milchan in the affair being investigated by the police, according to media reports from Haaretz and Israeli news channels.
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The couple first started receiving expensive gifts from Milchan back in 2004 while Netanyahu served as finance minister in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet, Channel 2 News reported on Friday. Police investigators obtained receipts and other new documents for the investigation, known as “Case 1000,” last week.
In August 2004, Sara Netanyahu reportedly asked Milchan to buy her a necklace and bracelet set from the H. Stern luxury jewelry store in the Hilton Hotel, where Milchan was staying at the time.
Milchan asked his then-business manager in Israel, along with Milchan’s wife Amanda Coetzer, to buy the jewelry for Mrs. Netanyahu. But when the two learned that the price of the necklace was $6,265 and the bracelet cost $2,305, they decided to buy only the necklace. The package was sent to the Netanyahu family.
The next day, however, Milchan allegedly told his business manager that Benjamin Netanyahu had called and said it was very awkward for him to say it but “only half the gift was sent – the bracelet is missing.” Afterward, Milchan told his manager to buy the bracelet, too.
The receipt for the payment for the jewelry was shown by Channel 2. However, because the matter took place back in 2004, the statue of limitations has expired on any potential wrongdoing.
A lawyer representing the Netanyahu family, Amit Hadad, said the incident never happened, noting: “We do not intend to respond to every false accusation.”
Earlier Friday, Gidi Weitz reported in Haaretz that in most of the instances, Milchan said he did not spontaneously give the Netanyahus gifts, but the couple were the ones who requested them.
The Netanyahus used code names to order more: “Pinks” was used as a signal to replenish their supply of pink Champagne, allegedly provided by Milchan. “Leaves” was reportedly the code for the fancy cigars Milchan is thought to have sent Benjamin Netanyahu every two weeks.
Milchan told friends he didn’t expect to receive any benefits for the gifts he provided. An acquaintance of Milchan believes he found it difficult to refuse the prime minister’s requests, because it was important for Milchan to be close to the country’s decision-making centers and that he would not have refused any request by Netanyahu. “He already made his fortune,” said a friend who knows Milchan quite well.
Milchan has declined requests for comment since his name was published in Haaretz in connection with the investigation. Milchan has not commented publicly on the suspicions.