Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly had dinner last week with Jewish American billionaire Larry Ellison while vacationing on a Hawaiian island owned almost wholly by the tech tycoon, who is a prosecution witness in the ex-premier’s criminal cases.
Channel 13 reported Sunday that Netanyahu had dinner with Ellison and Dr. David Agus, a professor of the University of Southern California’s Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.
The report said they met at Nobu, a high-end sushi restaurant on the island of Lanai, where the Netanyahus have been vacationing, noting that the meal cost “thousands of shekels.” It did not say who paid.
Netanyahu is on trial for charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing.
Ellison is one of several hundred prosecution witnesses in Netanyahu’s corruption trial. His name reportedly came up in two of the cases and a report last year said he lobbied and convinced Israeli mogul Arnon Milchan to drop his lawyer so Netanyahu could hire him.
Netanyahu, who is accused of receiving illicit gifts from wealthy benefactors, insisted that he was paying for his vacation. He also said there was no legal impediment to meeting with witnesses in his trial.
“There is no prohibition on former prime minister Netanyahu meeting with a witness. The list of witnesses includes hundreds of people, including his lawyers and members of his party, with who he is in constant contact,” a statement from his office said.
Ellison, the cofounder and chairman of Oracle Corporation, purchased 98 percent of Lanai in 2012 for a reported $300 million.
Netanyahu and his family flew abroad to vacation two weeks ago despite the Health Ministry and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urging Israelis to avoid non-essential overseas travel amid surging COVID-19 cases in Israel and elsewhere. Officials have also warned of new coronavirus variants entering the country.
Under current Health Ministry guidelines, the Netanyahus will be required to quarantine for a week upon returning.