Hadas Klein, an assistant to billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, on Tuesday detailed the incessant demands for luxury goods made for years by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara to her bosses.
During her first day of testimony to the Jerusalem District Court, Klein described becoming the conduit for a never-ending supply of premium cigars and champagne to the Netanyahus, goods she said were not volunteered by Milchan or Packer but requested directly by the ex-premier and his wife.
Her testimony is highly significant since it undermines Netanyahu’s defense that he was merely accepting gifts from a friend and that he was not aware of the extent of the gifts either.
Klein’s testimony pertained to Case 1000 of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, in which he is charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly accepting luxury gifts from Milchan and Packer worth NIS 691,776.
The indictment alleges that in return, the former prime minister assisted Milchan with personal visa issues and regulatory and tax benefits relating to his business interests in Israel.
The goods were provided between 2011 and 2016, according to the indictment.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the first for Case 1000, Klein said that she had personally delivered champagne and jewelry to the Netanyahus, noting that Milchan would often deliver the cigars himself when he had a meeting with the then-prime minster.
She specifically described the constant pressure and demands made by the couple, including personal calls from Netanyahu himself asking for a specific brand of cigar that was hard to obtain.
“We were very discreet about it… there was a feeling that we had to be,” Klein said of the deliveries.
Klein noted that Netanyahu had requested Cohiba 56 cigars from Milchan but that she had only been able to acquire the Cohiba 54.
- She said an angered Netanyahu complained to Milchan about it.
Klein said on a personal trip she made to Cuba, she tried to find the elusive Cohiba 56 for Netanyahu, but to no avail.
Her assertion that Netanyahu contacted her directly about obtaining the right cigar seemingly contradicts his defense that he did not know about the gifts.
On another occasion, Klein said Sara requested that she deliver champagne to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover holiday.
Klein said she initially tried to avoid making the delivery, as she was hosting 40 people for Seder night. However, when Milchan called her and said he had received a call from Sara about the request, Klein said she had no alternative but to travel to Jerusalem to deliver the champagne.
“If I’d give three bottles of champagne, [Sara would] complain, ‘Why only three?’” she added.
In her testimony, Klein said Milchan personally approved all the gift requests since he kept tight control of his finances.
Still, he was disturbed by all of the expensive requests.
“Arnon told me, ‘These amounts are starting to get out of control, tell her our accountant is starting to ask questions,’” Klein testified, adding that Milchan never volunteered to buy them such gifts.
- Packer on the other hand, who was deeply impressed by Netanyahu after they were introduced in 2013, told Klein to give the Netanyahus anything they asked for and not to hold back anything, she said.
Klein detailed numerous occasions in which she or Milchan’s driver would bring the Netanyahus champagne and cigars, to the official premier’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem or to their Caesarea residence.
According to Klein, on one occasion when she had arranged to have Sara’s watch fixed and delivered to Netanyahu, he asked her if she had brought any cigars with her as well (she had not).
- The champagne enjoyed by the Netanyahus included the premium Dom Perignon vintage brand, which Klein said they would pay over NIS 1,000 per bottle for, as well as a rosé champagne from Moet & Chandon, Sara’s favorite tipple.
Klein said she and the driver would never deliver the champagne in fewer than two crates with six bottles in each crate.
Asked by a prosecutor if she ever got complaints that not enough champagne or cigars had been delivered, Klein responded, “that was the story of our lives,” adding “You couldn’t say no, he was the prime minister.”
“I’d meet Sara often, when we’d bring champagne. When we brought it, we’d bring at least two crates. Of course I purchased the boxes of cigars. The jewelry I would personally give Sara at her house, at the pool. [And the] coats I purchased,” she said.
She quoted a conversation in which Milchan told Packer you could not go to the Netantyahus without bringing gifts, and if you did you would not get invited again.
Klein’s testimony was to continue Wednesday.
Along with Case 1000, Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges in two other cases, as well as bribery in one of them.
- He has denied wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the charges were fabricated and part of a bid by the state prosecution and political rivals to force him from office.