Frenchman accused of fraud retracts claim he gave Netanyahu $1M for campaign

(JTA) – A French businessman on trial in Paris for fraud walked back his claims that he gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at least 1 million euros for an election campaign.

Arnaud Mimran last month told a Paris court, where he is standing trial for allegedly defrauding the European Union of about $315 million along with several partners, that he donated 1 million euros, slightly more than $1 million, for a Netanyahu election campaign. Netanyahu flatly denied the claim after it was made in court.

Netanyahu acknowledged Monday in a statement from his office that he received $40,000 from Mimran in August 2001 through a fund for public diplomacy that he undertook as a private citizen.

On Tuesday evening, Mimran told Israel’s Channel 2 that he may have been wrong about the amount and that it was not given for political purposes. In addition to the money, Mimran said he invited Netanyahu to vacation with him in Monaco and Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps.

He also pointed out that he visited Netanyahu in Israel in 2009 to celebrate his re-election as prime minister, eight years after the original donation, which shows that the two are not linked.

Israeli law limits donations to parties and politicians running for office to approximately $4,000. Candidates have only been required to report this to the state since 2006, however.

Mimran’s contribution came up during the court proceedings when he was asked by the prosecutor why he travelled to Israel 10 times in 2009, according to Haaretz. Mimran said one of the visits was to have a private meeting with Netanyahu after he was re-elected prime minister.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ordered an investigation into suspicions against Netanyahu raised by Mimran’s court testimony.

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