Hadas Klein, personal assistant to Arnon Milchan, testified on Monday that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested and received 3,000 shekels (about $900) in cash from tycoon Arnon Milchan, and that she bought his wife Sara a gift for 15,000 shekels with Milchan’s funds, also in cash. These details do not appear in the indictment, and it is the first time a claim has been presented that Netanyahu received cash from Milchan.
Klein made the statements during her cross-examination in Case 1000, which involves Netanyahu’s alleged demand and receipt of lavish gifts from tycoons, in response to a question by Netanyahu’s defense attorney, Amit Haddad.
Haddad wondered why Milchan’s aides withdrew large amounts in cash, and the witness replied: “There are personal matters of Arnon’s that you won’t want to hear about, like what I bought for 15,000 shekels cash for Mrs. Netanyahu, or that Mr. Netanyahu asked for a 3,000 tip.” At this point she was interrupted by Judge Moshe Bar-Am, who said: “You don’t want to say, so don’t say.”
Haddad argued at the hearing that Australian businessman James Packer was in the habit of treating his guests to cigars and champagne, and didn’t purchase them solely for the Netanyahu couple. According to the prosecution, the cigars and champagne purchased by Packer were mostly intended for the Netanyahus. In this context Haddad presented a letter from Packer’s friend, Ben Tilly, which stated that during his stay in Israel he smoked a cigar every evening, provided by Packer. A letter by Guy Jalland, the director of a company owned by Packer, states that many people were entertained at Milchan’s homes in Israel, and that they were served pink champagne. Jalland added that Packer himself drank champagne. To this, Klein replied that “Mister Packer hardly drank.”
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Haddad also showed photos of Packer and Milchan in the company of the late Shimon Peres, in which flutes of pink champagne are seen on the table. However, none of the photos show anyone drinking it. According to Haddad, some of the champagne allegedly purchased for Netanyahu was actually intended for a dinner party hosted by Milchan to celebrate Peres’ birthday. Klein rejected this claim. “I have never denied that when there were guests, there is pink champagne on the table,” she said, but clarified that the beverages were not purchased especially for the occasion, and said some of those present didn’t even drink it. Klein said that unlike Netanyahu, Peres never received a supply of champagne delivered to his home.
Later on, Haddad dwelled on Milchan’s expense accounts and directed questions at Klein regarding the maintenance costs at his home, but was cut off by the judges. “The whole world needs to know what he pays? Mr. Milchan is entitled to his privacy,” noted panel head Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman. “If you are asking about cigars and champagne, we understand. When you ask about gardening, we understand less,” said Judge Oded Shacham.