Netanyahu Trial: Ex-aide Says Former PM's Relationship With Hollywood Mogul Was 'Close'

Nir Hefetz, a key witness in Netanyahu's trial, tells court that despite visiting the prime minister’s official residence 'hundreds of times,' he 'had no knowledge of the cigars' from businessman Arnon Milchan

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Haaretz
Nir Hefetz a key witness in Netanyahu's trial in Jerusalem court on Monday.
Nir Hefetz a key witness in Netanyahu's trial in Jerusalem court on Monday. Credit: Emil Salman
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Haaretz

Nir Hefetz, who turned state's evidence in Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial, cited a "close friendly relationship" between the former prime minister and Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan as he testified before the court on Monday.

"There were many weekly talks," between Netanyahu and Milchan," Hefetz said. "I'm not sure when this friendship began."

"Milchan is a friendly person and that's why Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu felt comfortable with him," Hefetz added, emphasizing that "the relationship was very intense."

Hefetz, who is Netanyahu's former media adviser, also told the court that despite visiting the former prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem "hundreds of times," he "had no knowledge of the cigars from Milchan."

Netanyahu is currently on trial on multiple charges, including that he and his wife, Sara, maintained an improper relationship with Hollywood mogul Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer for years. Netanyahu and his wife are accused of receiving favors and lavish gifts from the two and in return taking actions in Milchan's favor.

The former prime minister is also accused of having received cigars and champagne from the two over the course of several years.

Despite the charges against the former prime minister, Hefetz said that he had only learned of the gift from Milchan "from the media."

He added that he had been aware of a box of cigars purchased for the former prime minister which was brought in by former United Israel Appeal Chairman Eliezer Sandberg.

The box, however, was not allowed to "formally" enter the prime minister’s residence, Hefetz said, adding that he did not know if they eventually reached Netanyahu or not.

There was also an "iron rule" that Netanyahu would not allow himself to be photographed smoking or eating, Hefetz confirmed.

Under cross-examination at the Jerusalem District Court, Hefetz said that he was also unaware whether Netanyahu’s wife Sarah had updated her spouse about gifts she had received.

In October, Milchan’s aide, Hadas Klein, reportedly told police that that her boss and Packer delivered three bracelets to Sara Netanyahu, including one valued at $45,000. In her deposition, Klein stated that Sara Netanyahu had asked for the jewelry.

In 2017, Klein told the police that buying champagne for Netanyahu wasn’t ever Milchan’s or Packer’s idea; rather, the suggestion always came from the Netanyahus.

At the beginning of December, while testifying on Case 1000, which accuses Netanyahu of accepting illegal gifts from billionaires in exchange for benefits, Hefetz had told the Jerusalem District Court: "I witnessed many cases Benjamin Netanyahu knew were problematic, and I'm talking about a lot of cases."

Hefetz stated earlier this month that the former prime minister "tried robbing state funds for personal needs," claiming he witnessed such schemes "dozens of times.”

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