Meir Habib, the French parliamentarian who introduced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to French businessman Arnaud Mimran, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he now regrets having done so because of Mimran’s alleged involvement in a major fraud scheme in France.
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Fifteen years ago, Mimran gave Netanyahu a donation “in a totally legal manner,” Habib said in the interview. “[Now] there are serious concerns about him [Mimran], but 15 years ago no one could have known that.”
The politician, who stressed that Mimran has yet to be formally accused of anything, also confirmed that Mimran let Netanyahu and his family stay at his Paris apartment for a week. “It’s a natural thing, [Netanyahu] was a totally private citizen and they offered to loan him the apartment,” he said.
In the radio interview, Habib also commented on Monday's report that Isaac Molho and David Shimron, law partners and confidants of Netanyahu, provided legal services to Mimran through 2006 at least, and also established a private company on the prime minister's behalf, in which Habib was a partner; the company was apparently registered through the Israeli embassy in Paris.
“The company did not operate for a single day,” Habib noted. “The guy wanted to open a company. There was no bank account, not one cent. There was no company.”
Asked if he understood the possibly problematic connection between the law partners, Netanyahu and Mimran, Habib replied: “Fifteen years ago, who could have known that he was going to become a criminal? This whole thing happened in the early 2000s.” He added: “You’ll see that it’s like the prime minister said – it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Last week the Prime Minister’s Office said that in 2001, when Netanyahu was still a private citizen, he received $40,000 from Mimran. The PMO denied the claim that Mimran made in court in France that he had donated one million euros to the premier's 2009 election campaign.
In addition, Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker last week revealed documents listing private trips made by Benjamin Netanyahu and his family between 1999 and 2001. These records show that many of the excursions were paid for by Habib. One prominent item listed is a vacation the family apparently took during the Sukkot holiday in 2000, which, the documents say, was paid for by the Vendome Group – Habib’s jewelry company.
Evidence presented in the Mimran case shows that a key witness and Mimran’s partner, Israeli citizen Sami Sweid, was killed in Paris while meeting with Mimran, who had given him a gift made by Habib's company: a gold ring with a skull design.