Netanyahu’s Attorney: Gifts of Cigars Are Not a Bribe

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s lawyer Dr. Yaakov Weinroth. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not guilty of corruption in any way, shape or form, said his attorney, Yaakov Weinroth. In a statement Friday, Weinroth said that Netanyahu did not accept or receive bribes, loans or any other material benefits. “There is nothing involved that could be even distantly related to a crime, and when the prime minister presents his answers, it will become clear that there are no crimes involved.”

The statement came a day after Netanyahu underwent a second round of questioning Thursday night. Interrogators questioned the prime minister on alleged corruption charges for five hours, with police saying in a statement that a second suspect had been questioned in the case in recent days. Last week, police  questioned American millionaire Ron Lauder, who according to Haaretz testified that he gave gifts to Netanyahu and family members. There has been no independent corroboration of that claim, however, and Lauder has since returned to the U.S.

According to a report on Channel Two, that second suspect is Arnon Milchan, an Israeli-American businessman who investigators believe provided Netanyahu with expensive cigars over many years. According to the report, Netanyahu smokes cigars valued at between NIS 15,000 and NIS 20,000 per month. Each cigar Milchan gave Netanyahu is said to be worth NIS 100. He is also accused of providing Netanyahu with champagne, with each bottle worth between NIS 300 and NIS 400.

What Milchan wanted from Netanyahu in exchange for these “bribes” is not clear, and investigators have not determined what that might be. Milchan is a shareholder in Channel Ten, but Netanyahu has sided with the closing of Channel Ten because it could not pay its debts, so supporters of the prime minister say there was no quid pro quo involved.

According to Weinroth, any gifts Netanyahu received from  Milchan or anyone else were personal gifts, between friends. “There is no law against giving cigars as a gift, and anyone with any common sense knows that a good friend could bring someone cigars as a gift, and there is no crime involved.”