On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition, was ordered by the High Court of Justice to return $300,000 to his deceased former benefactor and cousin, Nathan Milikowsky.
According to the court ruling, the money is an illicit gift because it was received by Netanyahi and Sara, his wife, when he had been prime minister.
It had been given for funding their legal fees, which is a gift that cannot be given to a public servant.
The justices said that while the two men were indeed cousins, the reason for the gift was due to business interests and the money was beyond the amount of what is considered a routine gift amongst family members.
Milikovski had made some remarks that were quoted by Avichai Mandelblit, who was the attorney-general back them.
He had said that the money was to eliminate financial worries of Netanyahu, so he would be able to serve his public role.
It was also noted by the justices that another forbidden gift for the former premier was a loan of NIS 2 million from Spencer Patrich, the real estate mogul.
However, they stated that the loan could be repaid and the state comptroller would supervise the process, as the attorney general and the comptroller both had approved the loan.
The decision received a positive response from Hatnua L’Tohar Hamidot, the good governance group, as it said that acceptance of these funds was dangerous and invalid.
Madelblit had said back in November last year that a total of $900,000 should be returned by Netanyahu to two businessmen, which included the $300,000 from his cousin and $900,000 from Patrich.
This was after the High Court had demanded an explanation in July 2021 of why the money that Netanyahu had gotten from his cousin was not considered an illicit gift, one that should be returned.
The opposition leader, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee and the then-attorney general had been asked to provide the said explanation.
In 2019, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee had decided that only $30,000 of the funds had to be returned to Milikowsky because the rest of the money had been used for Sara Netanyahu’s defense.
In October 2020, Mandelblit had closed a separate case that had been known as the ‘stock affair’. It was related to allegations of Netanyahu profiting illicitly from selling shares in a firm to his cousin.
The allegations had been investigated by the then-attorney general for about a year and a half after reports said that Netanyahu had made suspicious returns on his stocks in Seadrift Coke.
Mandelblit acknowledged that Netanyahu could have gotten prominent benefits because of his cousin’s involvement, but it was unclear if it was deliberate or not.
He also noted that since the case was from 2007, the statute of limitations had expired a long time ago. Netanyahu is facing breach of trust and fraud charges in one of the three criminal cases that have been filed against him.
He is also running in the November elections to become prime minister once more.