Report: Netanyahu May Have Profited From His Cousin's Illegal Sales to Libya

Seadrift Coke, a company in which Netanyahu held shares, provided materials to a company that sold electrodes to Gadhafi's Libya in violation of U.S. nuclear regulations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem, March 20, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have profited from illegal deals the company of his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky, made with Libya, news site HuffPost reported Thursday.

According to the report, Seadrift Coke, Milikowsky's Texas-based company in which Netanyahu held a 1.6 percent stake, provided raw materials to a different company owned by the premier's cousin that later carried on transcations with Libya that violated U.S. nuclear nonproliferation regulations. 

In 2007 and 2008, Milikowsky's C/G Electrodes sold electrodes to Libya, which was controlled at the time by dictator Muammar Gadhafi. The sales, some of which went through Canada, were worth $6.8 million. Then-shareholder Netanyahu would probably have reaped the benefits of the sale.  

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The U.S. Department of Commerce charged C/G Electrodes in 23 illegal sales to Libya. The company was fined $250 thousand for its actions.

Netanyahu bought his shares in Seadrift a month after C/G Electrodes started selling to Libya. According to the prime minister, he bought his shares for 4 million shekels in 2007, when he was head of the opposition.

He sold his stock about a year and seven months after he was elected prime minister in 2010, at the cost of at least 16 million shekels ($4.4 million), more than quadrupling his profits.

Milikowsky, responding to HuffPost, claimed that Netanyahu was "not involved in that company and was just a passive investor in Seadrift," but refused to elaborate further, as he is "not talking to reporters."

File photo: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gestures during a meeting with Tunisian political leaders in his residence at Gammarth, outside Tunis, 2003.
AP

A Netanyahu spokesman echoed that the prime minister was a passive investor, and told the news site that "He did not take any part in the company’s management or business." He did not respond to questions regarding whether Netanyahu was aware of Seadrift's connections to Libya, but said "The actions taken in the case were reported appropriately to the relevant authorities."

The report exacerabte the controversy surrounding Netanyahu's connections to his cousin ahead of next week's elections. 

In January, it was revealed that Netanyahu received $300,000 from his cousin, in violation of funding laws, to cover his personal legal expenses. The prime minister was sharply criticized by the permits committee in Israel’s State Comptroller’s Office after he filed a petition to the High Court of Justice to allow him to accept millions of dollars from Milikowsky and another tycoon for his legal fees. The court rejected the petition.

Both are also linked to the submarine affair. Seadrift was acquired by steelmaking materials company GrafTech International in 2010, a supplier to German industrial group ThyssenKrupp. Through the acquisition, Milikowsky became a significant shareholder in GrafTech. Netanyahu later purchased $2 billion in submarines built by ThyssenKrupp, which defense officials opposed. The prime minister also signed off on Germany's sale of advanced submarines to Egypt, which he admitted last month he approved without consulting the IDF chief of staff or defense minister.

Netanyahu was questioned but not named as a suspect in a probe related to a possible conflict of interests in the deal. Police recommended charging six suspects, including Netanyahu's lawyer and his former bureau chief, for bribery in the affair.