Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave Harvey Weinstein information that facilitated his hiring of an Israeli firm to investigate several women accusing him of sexual assault and the journalists working on the stories, Israel's Channel 2 reported on Tuesday.
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The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow reported Monday that among a number of firms hired by Weinstein was the Israeli firm Black Cube, whose employees are self-advertised as "highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units." According to the contract, signed in July, Weinstein explicitly hired Black Cube to prevent the New York Times and the New Yorker's original reporting on Weinstein, as well as actress Rose McGowan's book detailing his alleged abuse.
According to Channel 2, Ehud Barak unwittingly played a role in leading Weinstein to Black Cube. Weinstein even invited Barak and the head of Black Cube to a Hillary Clinton fundraiser.
A statement released on Barak's behalf said that "over a year ago, he was asked by Weinstein if he knows about an Israeli security firm that Weinstein had heard about and can help him deal with business issues he's currently facing.
"Barak confirmed to Weinstein that the firm he heard about was probably Black Cube and that it does operate from Israel. Barak does not personally know the firm or its officials and he only transferred to Weinstein information that allowed him to reach out to them on his own."
In response to the report, Black Cube says that it does not comment on clients as a policy and would never confirm or deny what it described as "speculations." It said all of its activities were legal and up to ethical standards.
According to the New Yorker, Weinstein first mentioned wanting to hire Black Cube, which earned an international reputation for digging up business intelligence around the world through legally murky methods, last year. David Boies, Weinstein's lawyer who is renowned for championing liberal causes at the highest level of the U.S. judicial system, offered Black Cube financial incentives for preventing the articles' publication and obtaining drafts of McGowan's books. Boies confirmed hiring the firm to the New Yorker.
Among the firm's responsibilities was to reportedly compile psychological profiles of Weinstein's accusers while digging dirt on their personal histories. Weinstein also hired corporate-intelligence firm Kroll to perform the same task. According to the New Yorker, a Black Cube private investigator and former Mossad agent met with actress Rose McGowan, pretending to be a women's-rights activist. The same investigator later reportedly met with journalists working on the Weinstein story, pretending to have her own set of allegations against the Hollywood producer.
An additional Black Cube operative also reportedly posed as a source for New York Magazine reporter Ben Wallace, who was working on his own Weinstein story, citing his ex-wife as leverage in potentially killing the story.
Black Cube was founded in 2010 by Yanus and Dan Zorella, who served in a secret Israeli intelligence unit — as have many of the company’s employees. Black Cube describes its employees as “a select group of veterans of the elite Israeli intelligence community, whose diverse experience in information gathering, analysis, research, and field operations make Black Cube a unique resource in the global market.” Most of the firm’s business is in supporting legal disputes between large business entities, when one side is trying to collect intelligence on the other side in an attempt to win the case.
Black Cube made the headlines in Israel in 2013 when it was hired by former IDB chairman Nochi Dankner to dig up dirt on Moti Ben-Moshe and Eduardo Elsztain, who succeeded in wresting control of the IDB conglomerate from Dankner. In 2014, Argentina wanted to hire Black Cube to collect intelligence on the U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management, which took Argentina to court to force it to pay up on bonds it has previously restructured. In 2016, two Israeli Black Cube employees were arrested in Romania on hacking charges with the alleged aim of harassing and intimidating the country's chief anti-corruption prosecutor.