JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged in a statement from his office that he received $40,000 from a French businessman on trial for fraud.
Arnaut Mimran gave Netanyahu the money in 2001 when Netanyahu was a private citizen and traveling for public diplomacy, according to the statement.
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 euro, slightly more than $1 million, for a Netanyahu election campaign. Netanyahu flatly denied the claim after it was made in court.
“In August of 2001, when Mr. Netanyahu was a private citizen, Mimran donated $40,000 to a fund for public activities by Mr. Netanyahu, which included media appearances and numerous public diplomacy travels for the benefit of the State of Israel, and was done in accordance with the law,” the statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
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.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ordered an investigation into suspicions against Netanyahu raised by Mimran’s court testimony.
Mimran’s contribution came up during the court proceedings when he was asked by the prosecutor why he traveled 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 reelected prime minister.
The chairman of the judges’ panel said during the exchange that evidence of the payment appears in the evidence file.