Netanyahu Received $40,000 From French Tycoon in 2001, PM's Office Says

Arnaut Mimran's claim that he donated 1 million euros to Netanyahu’s election campaign 'is a baseless lie,' Prime Minister's Office says, noting he was not in office at the time.

Arnaud Mimran, right, and his lawyer at the Paris courthouse, on May 25, 2016, to attend his trial.
Bertrand Guay, AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received $40,000 in 2001 from Arnaut Mimran, a French tycoon on trial for fraud, a statement by the Prime Minister's Office on Monday said.

Mimran, who is the key suspect in a massive fraud case in France, told a Paris court that he gave 1 million euros to Netanyahu’s election campaign, a claim Netanyahu denies.

"The claim that Arnaut Mimran donated a million euros to Mr. Netanyahu's election campaign is a baseless lie," the statement issued on Monday said. "There was no contribution to Netanyahu's election campaign.

"In August of 2001, when Mr. Netanyahu was a private citizen, Mimran donated $40,000 to a fund for public activities by Mr. Netanyahu, which included media appearances and numerous public diplomacy travels for the benefit of the State of Israel, and was done in accordance with the law."

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has instructed that an examination be made of suspicions against Netanyahu raised by Mimran's court testimony, Channel 10 News reported.

Mimran mentioned the payment when he was being questioned in court about his activities in 2009, but did not say specifically to what campaign he had contributed. During the court session the chairman of the judges’ panel said the payment to Netanyahu was in the evidence file.

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.

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."