In Final Decision, Netanyahu's Request to Let Tycoon Friend Fund Legal Defense Denied

State comptroller committee rules the prime minister didn't provide sufficient information on his relations with Spencer Partrich, but could get last-second permission to take a loan to cover legal fees in bribery cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his office in Jerusalem, Israel, June 23, 2019.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to raise money from American businessman and close associate Spencer Partrich to finance legal defense in the premier's bribery cases was denied Monday, in a final decision on the matter by the permits committee in the State Comptroller's Office.

The committee reached its decision after giving the prime minister 30 days to provide information of the nature of the his relationship with Partrich, as well as a wealth statement. Netanyahu's legal counsel asked on Sundayfor a 30-day extension to that deadline, which was denied.

Netanyahu claimed the committee was overstepping its mandate and "used its position to stack unprecedented difficulties on the prime minister and prevent him his basic rights in the legal process."

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In February, Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced his decision to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, pending a hearing.

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Days earlier, the committee ruled that Netanyahu must return $300,000 he had already received from his cousin Nathan Milikowsky without the committee’s approval. He was also told to return the suits, or their cash value, that Partrich had bought him.

After Netanyahu appealed that decision, a compromise was reached at the High Court of Justice, at the urging of the justices, for the committee to revisit Netanyahu's request and hear his lawyers before reaching its final decision. The court also ruled that Netanyahu must provide the committee with all the information it requested.

Netanyahu had been represented until recently by attorney Navot Tel-Zur, who quit after Netanyahu failed to pay him and his colleagues for their services. The prime minister is believed to owe his lawyers hundreds of thousands of shekels.

Last week Netanyahu asked outgoing State Comptroller Joseph Shapira for permission to borrow millions on commercial terms from Partrich.

The request for a commercial loan is evidently an attempt to bypass the permits committee. Sources familiar with the matter told Haaretz that the state comptroller is leaning toward approving the request.