AG to Probe French Tycoon's Claim He Gave Netanyahu 1M Euros; PM: Money Was for Hasbara

Paris court says evidence shows Arnaut Mimran gave Netanyahu the sum, but a Haaretz investigation reveals State Comptroller received no reports of such a donation in last decade; Netanyahu: 'I received the money as a private individual for public diplomacy campaign for Israel.'

 Benjamin Netanyahu with Arnaud Mimran. Monte Carlo, Monaco. 2003
Mediapart, all rights reserved. Published in Haaretz by special permission

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has instructed that an examination be made of suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised by the court testimony of French businessman Arnaud Mimran, Channel 10 News reported Sunday night. 

Mimran, who is the key suspect in a huge fraud case in France, told a Paris court that he gave 1 million euros to Netanyahu’s election campaign. During the court session the chairman of the judges’ panel said the payment to Netanyahu was in the evidence file. Mimran mentioned the payment when he was being questioned about his activities in 2009, but did not say specifically to what campaign he had contributed. 

The Prime Minister’s Office responded: “Mr. Netanyahu received no prohibited contribution from Mimran. Any other claim is a lie. Mimran contributed to Netanyahu’s public activities in the early 2000s, when Mr. Netanyahu was a private citizen and fulfilled no political role. This activity included media appearances and many public diplomacy campaigns for the State of Israel, which were done in accordance with the law. Mimran, who is on trial for fraud in the hundreds of millions of dollars, is trying to deflect attention from his trial by means of another fraud.”

The State Comptroller’s Office conducted an examination into Mimran's allegation following a request from Haaretz, which revealed that it received no report about contributions by Mimran for Netanyahu over the past decade. The examination included reports of contributions from 2006 to the present. By law and the state comptroller’s instructions, a candidate for the Knesset may not receive more than 11,480 shekels ($2,984) from a single donor and a candidate for party chairmanship may not receive more than 45,880 shekels. Filing a false report with the state comptroller is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.

However, candidates have only been required to report contributions to the state since 2006; prior to that year they were only required to report contributions to their party’s internal comptroller. Likud’s comptroller, attorney Shai Galili, has no materials pertaining to the period before 2013 when he took up his post because the materials were not passed on to him by his predecessor.

Meanwhile, in response to a request by MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) to check into the matter, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira stated through his senior adviser for special tasks, retired police Maj. Gen. Amihai Shai, that he cannot examine the affair. Examinations of Netanyahu’s election funding had revealed no indication of unreported election activities in the amount of a million euros, and “the comptroller does not have more extensive authority that includes investigation abroad and therefore the request for investigation must be made to law enforcement authorities,” Shai wrote.

The matter of Mimran’s contribution to the prime minister came up when Mimran was asked by the prosecutor why he went to Israel 10 times in 2009. Mimran said that on one of his trips he went alone to meet Netanyahu. It was at that point that the chairman of the judges’ panel interjected: “Indeed in the evidence file your payment to him appears.” 

Mimran’s defense attorney objected and argued that the information “was only reported in the newspaper,” but the panel chairman overruled his objection and said: “No, dear sir, it certainly does appear in the file here before me.” 

After that exchange, Mimran said: “I funded Netanyahu in the amount of 1 million euros. That was in his election campaign. Then in 2009, when he was indeed re-elected prime minister of Israel, I went to Israel and we met.” 

Mimran’s name appears prominently in a notebook of contributors Netanyahu put together in 2002, as reported by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker. According to a joint investigative report in April by Haaretz and the French news site Mediapart, Mimran paid for vacations for Netanyahu and his family in the Alps and on the French Riviera, loaned him his apartment in the 16th Arondissement in Paris, and took him to a prestigious club during Netanyahu’s visits to Paris.

Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron told Haaretz that Mimran’s statements were false. “He appears in the contribution notebook because those are people who could be approached but in the end he did not contribute.”

The Justice Ministry confirmed that the matter was under examination on instructions from the attorney general and declined to give further details.