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Benjamin Netanyahu demanded $200K in luxury gifts from Movie Mogul

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Hadas Klein, the last witness in the corruption trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could have come from the central casting.

In two days of riveting testimonials, the 57-year-old Klein, elegant, expressive and self-confident, wearing an elegant bob, showed herself exactly as she is: an A-list executive assistant who witnessed extraordinary events.

About halfway through Wednesday’s recitation, his testimony took a turn that might have been taken from a mob courtroom. Klein, aide-de-camp to Arnon Milchan, the Hollywood producer and Netanyahu’s close friend for the last thirty years, described his efforts to conceal the identity of the beneficiary of his purchases from ‘Cookie’, the owner of a tony cigar boutique in the elegant suburb of Herzliya in Tel Aviv.

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“Cookie, that’s her name,” she wanted to know who was enjoying the Cuban cigars she bought from him for around $27,328 a year.

“I was paying for everything with my personal credit card because I was trying to protect Netanyahu. He didn’t want to put it on Arnon’s credit card to protect him. Cookie never gave us a discount, but she gave us free Dominican cigars… I accepted them and asked Arnon about it, and he said, ‘sure, why not?’ and of course nothing stayed with us. We also transferred the gifts to Mr. Netanyahu.”

Cookie pressed her. “Cookie told me that only a very small group of people in the country consume this length and diameter of a cigar, so who is it?”

Two Monte Christo cigars cost $630, he recalled. Netanyahu enjoyed dunking them in Cointreau before smoking, he said.

But Klein brought back more than her memories. A meticulous record keeper, she provided investigators and the court with all receipts, invoices, and wire transfers related to these purchases and many more. Her text messages related to her acquisitions and disposition were mercilessly projected on a screen in Judge Rivka Feldman-Freidman’s small courtroom.

Klein was the central gear of a full-blown “well-organized mechanism” of Netanyahu’s illegal demands for assets from wealthy “friends” and the distribution of the resulting “gifts,” which Israeli prosecutors believe constitute corruption.

Like Cassidy Hutchinson, Klein witnessed the most intimate behavior of the Netanyahus, like Hutchinson, she was overlooked by figures in power, and, like Hutchinson, she framed her testimony as an act of patriotism.

“I am fulfilling my obligations as a citizen of this country,” she told reporters in the hallway, surrounded by police bodyguards. “They asked me to testify and that is what I am doing. I’m doing what would have made my parents proud.”

During her testimony, which also included unflattering portrayals of Milchan, Klein worried about the possibility of losing her job.

Klein is unlike previous high-profile witnesses in Netanyahu’s trial, in which he faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate criminal cases involving, in one way or another, allegations that he abused his position to personal benefit.

Both Nir Hefetz, the onetime head of Netanyahu’s fearsome communications shop, and Shlomo Filber, the former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Communications under Netanyahu, were fascinating but reluctant witnesses who testified for the state only as part of plea deals awaiting trial. prevent them from criminal prosecution.

Hefetz testified that “in everything that has to do with the media, [Netanyahu] he is much more than a control freak… “Netanyahu spends at least as much time in the media as he does on security issues.”

Echoing Netanyahu, Filber called the trial a “witch hunt” and lukewarmly described taking direct orders from the prime minister, who demanded that regulations be “eased” for Shaul Elovitch, a crony who headed the largest communications conglomerate. largest in Israel to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The cigars were for Netanyahu.

Klein, by contrast, testified voluntarily, even with what appeared to be relief, and is not suspected of any crime.

She described Netanyahu’s repeated calls on her cell phone, claiming that he had received authorization from “legal counsel” for the series of gifts he demanded be given to his wife. “You don’t understand,” the prime minister complained to his friend’s assistant. “She gets upset just because the media is massacring. Give her everything she wants. Everything is allowed, I checked. Don’t spill her blood like the media does.”

Klein described a massive staffing apparatus through which Netanyahu appropriated an unlimited flow of luxury items from Milchan, who complained about it, telling Klein that “we have no choice. There is no other way with them,” and Packer, whom he described as a vulnerable Netanyahu supporter.

Milchan, he said, “enjoyed the proximity to power. He liked being able to say that he was a friend of the prime minister’, but he was a disgruntled participant in the scheme which involved hiding boxes of Dom Perignon rosé champagne in coolers.

In March 2016, Klein recalled, when he returned home from a private trip to Cuba, his 50th birthday celebration, an irate Netanyahu allegedly complained that she had only bought him Cohiba 54 cigars, and not his favorite Cohiba cigars. 56es. “You couldn’t get them anywhere,” she said. “There just weren’t any.”

The Netanyahus spoke to him in code, referring to cigars as “leaves” and champagne as “rosé,” but were upfront and direct about other demands, Klein claimed. She said Sara Netanyahu’s demand for a specific gold ring and necklace from a Tel Aviv fashion jeweler was relayed to Klein following a conference call in which Milchan, who is expected to testify later in the trial, obtained the explicit authorization of the prime minister.

Klein’s testimony was full of exciting details and pearls. In contrast to Netanyahu, he described Yair Lapid, Israel’s current interim prime minister, Netanyahu’s rival in the upcoming 2022 election, as refusing to hand over a bouquet that Milchan sent when he was appointed finance minister in 2013. Lapid’s house, “Arnon told me to tell him to leave them there. Yair called me and said ‘no way’. He sends the driver to take it away.’”

She relayed memories of the time Hugh Jackman allegedly met with Netanyahu, which became another opportunity for the prime minister to get away with cigars. Judge Moshe Baram, a member of the three-judge panel hearing the case, asked Klein how he knew “cigarettes weren’t for the actor.”

Klein responded, “because I was there. The cigars were for Netanyahu.”

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