JERUSALEM — Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan was testifying Sunday at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial to reply questions on an alleged “provide line” of champagne and cigars funneled to the Israeli chief and his spouse mentioned to have been in alternate for assist with Milchan’s private and enterprise wants.
Milchan, who appeared by videoconference from the English metropolis of Brighton, close to the place he’s primarily based, is a key witness whose testimony is crucial for prosecutors who’re attempting to show that Netanyahu dedicated fraud and breach of belief in one in all three instances introduced in opposition to him.
Prosecutors hope Milchan’s testimony, which extends by way of this week and subsequent, will paint an image of plush favors granted to Netanyahu and his spouse that allegedly spurred the Israeli chief to make use of his place of energy to advance Milchan’s pursuits. The protection will attempt to lay out its case that Netanyahu wasn’t appearing in Milchan’s private pursuits and that the presents have been simply pleasant gestures.
Prosecution and protection legal professionals are questioning Milchan in a lodge convention room in Brighton. Whereas no journalists are allowed to be current there, Netanyahu’s spouse Sara, on a personal go to to Britain, will sit in.
Milchan’s testimony, anticipated to final six hours a day, is being aired in a Jerusalem courtroom for judges and different legal professionals — who may ask questions of him — and for journalists and different attendees to observe.
Netanyahu, who has attended a number of the hearings throughout his trial, arrived to the courtroom shortly after testimony started, flanked by his safety element and aides. Milchan, who will not be charged within the case, greeted him in Hebrew utilizing Netanyahu’s nickname: “Shalom, Bibi!”
Israeli Channel 13 aired footage of Sara Netanyahu and Milchan, 78, strolling individually up the steps within the lodge. A display screen was arrange within the Jerusalem courtroom to air the testimony.
In keeping with the indictment, Milchan, whose manufacturing credit embody such hits as “Fairly Lady” and “12 Years a Slave,” gave Netanyahu and his spouse containers of cigars and crates of champagne over a interval of a number of years that, together with jewellery, amounted to a worth of practically $200,000 — what the indictment describes as a “provide line” of lavish presents.
The indictment accuses Netanyahu of utilizing his influential perch to help Milchan to safe a U.S. visa extension by drawing on his diplomatic contacts, amongst them former Secretary of State John Kerry. Prosecutors additionally accuse Netanyahu of working to push laws that may have granted Milchan thousands and thousands in tax breaks.
“Contemplating the various hyperlinks between the defendant Netanyahu and Milchan, the defendant Netanyahu ought to have solely prevented coping with Milchan’s affairs,” the indictment says, including that Netanyahu and Milchan, an Israeli citizen, have had ties since 1999.
Milchan is testifying in one in all three instances being introduced in opposition to Netanyahu. The opposite two, for which he’s charged with bribery, fraud and breach of belief, accuse Netanyahu of exchanging regulatory favors with highly effective media moguls for extra constructive protection.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, claiming he’s the sufferer of a witch hunt orchestrated by a liberal media and a biased justice system.
Netanyahu’s authorized woes have dogged him politically, placing his health to rule whereas on trial on the middle of a political disaster that despatched Israelis to the polls for 5 instances in below 4 years.
In addition they have fueled accusations by critics that Netanyahu is pushing a contentious authorities plan to overtake Israel’s judiciary as a solution to escape the fees. Netanyahu denies these expenses.
The trial, which started in 2020 and has nonetheless not heard from Netanyahu himself, has featured greater than 40 prosecution witnesses, together with a few of Netanyahu’s closest former confidants who turned in opposition to the premier.
Witness accounts have shed mild not solely on the three instances but additionally revealed sensational particulars about Netanyahu’s character and his household’s repute for dwelling off the largesse of taxpayers and rich supporters. Milchan’s aide, Hadas Klein, testified final yr that the household “loves presents.”
The thought of a plea cut price has repeatedly surfaced, however prosecutors for now seem decided to see by way of the trial, regardless of reviews final week that the judges warned them that the extra severe crime of bribery shall be exhausting to show.