The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu to explain why the $300,000 he received from his wealthy cousin Nathan Milikowsky while serving as prime minister is not an illicit gift, and why he should not be ordered to return it in full.
The ruling was in response to petitions filed by a pair of good governance groups. Netanyahu, Mandelblit and the Permits Committee were given until September 5 to respond.
The High Court said the parties must explain why a Permits Committee decision requiring Netanyahu to only return $30,000 of the total funds from Milikowsky should not be annulled. The committee decided in 2019 that Netanyahu does not have to return the rest of the money on the grounds that it was used in the legal defense of his wife, Sara Netanyahu.
Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges in a case involving illicit gifts received from other wealthy benefactors. Milikowsky was reportedly questioned by police in the investigation, known as Case 1000, in which the prime minister is suspected of receiving some NIS 1 million ($282,000), most of it in cigars and champagne. Netanyahu reportedly claimed that some of the cigars he was alleged to have received he bought with his own money, while others he purchased with cash given to him by Milikowsky.
Netanyahu, who is now Knesset opposition leader, also faces fraud and breach of trust charges in two more cases involving providing regulatory benefits in exchange for favorable media coverage, as well as bribery charges in one of them.
He denies any wrongdoing and his trial in the cases is set to resume in September.
A separate case known as “the stock affair” was closed by Mandelblit in October. It pertains to allegations that Netanyahu illicitly profited to the tune of several million dollars from selling shares in a company to Milikowsky. Mandelblit’s office had been looking into the allegations for nearly a year and a half, after TV reports claimed Netanyahu made a suspicious return of over 700 percent on stocks he held in Seadrift Coke.
Mandelblit has acknowledged that the premier may have received significant benefits from his cousin in the affair, but says it is not clear he did so knowingly. He has also noted that the statute of limitations has long expired for the potential suspicions of fraud and breach of trust in the 2007 case.