Hollywood billionaire Arnon Milchan testifies at Netanyahu trial day two

Israeli PM faces three corruption charges involving media moguls and wealthy associates in relation to his previous term in office

Arnon Milchan, Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, arrives at The Old Ship Hotel in Brighton to provide testimony in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial. Reuters
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Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan started his second day of testimony in the corruption trial against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, in a court session that was live streamed from the UK to Israel.

The trial is taking place in Jerusalem, but Mr Milchan's testimony is being broadcast from the seaside city of Brighton, close to where the 78-year-old resides.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Netanyahu wrongfully received gifts worth about $200,000 from Mr Milchan and an Australian billionaire, largely in the form of cigars and champagne.

The corruption case is often cited by Israel’s opposition as a sign that the Prime Minister is not fit to govern, and a reason behind the current coalition’s deeply controversial drive to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.

Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the case and two other cases that are being heard in the same trial.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of helping Mr Milchan with his business interests and US visa status. The Prime Minister has described the gift-giving as normal conduct among friends, branding his trial a political witch-hunt.

Criminal probes against Mr Netanyahu – now in a record sixth term as premier – began in 2016 and set off years of political turmoil in Israel.

He has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly granting regulatory favours to businessmen in return for positive media coverage.

Mr Milchan's testimony on Sunday focused largely on the businessman’s gifts to Mr Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, which, he said, came mostly at the couple's request.

Tuesday’s session began with the lead prosecutor asking Mr Milchan about valuable jewellery he purchased for Ms Netanyahu, as well as gifts given to the pair by Australian billionaire James Packer.

Mr Milchan was also asked whether the presents had changed his relationship with the couple, to which he answered: “Until the investigation it never occurred to me there was a problem with our friendship. When the investigation began, I started to understand it was overdone.”

Updated: June 27, 2023, 2:49 AM