Controversy over contributions to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a French tycoon on trial for fraud deepened today after the Frenchman disputed the premier’s version of events.
With the issue receiving widespread coverage in Israel and the country’s attorney general examining it, Netanyahuacknowledged on Monday that Arnaud Mimran, currently on trialin Paris, had given him $40,000.
Netanyahu said however that all had been done according to the law, and that the 2001 contribution was not political andoccurred when he was not in public office.
The prime minister’s office said the money was for a fund for Netanyahu’s public activities, which included mediaappearances and travel abroad to promote Israel.
A political contribution of that size would exceed Israel’s campaign finance limits.
Mimran told Israel’s Channel 10 television late on Monday that the amount was actually some 170,000 euros ($193,000),transferred to Netanyahu’s personal account.
He also said that previous reports that he had contributed one million euros were incorrect.
“First of all, I never said one million euros; I said one million,” Mimran said in the interview.
“It was in 2001, so it was one million French francs —170,000 euros. I still have the bank statements, from ArnaudMimran, my personal account, to Benjamin Netanyahu, his personal account.”
Mimran also said he had financed trips to France for Netanyahu and his family, after the Israeli leader had already returned to politics.
Following the interview, Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron dismissed Mimran’s claims.