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Report: Jailed French tycoon said he funded Netanyahu vacations, gave him $1 million

Jailed French businessman Arnaud Mimran, a longtime associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been recorded in his prison cell claiming he had given $1 million to the Israeli premier alongside paid-for vacations and luxury watches, according to a Sunday report.

French news site Mediapart published the remarks, saying they were recorded in 2019 and 2020 after French judicial authorities bugged Mimran’s prison cell as part of an investigation in another case against him. In jail since 2016, he was sentenced to more time in 2021 in a separate case.

Netanyahu’s office denied Mimran’s claims on Monday evening, calling them “delusional lies by a convicted criminal who is sitting in jail.”

In one of the recordings, from July 2020, Mimran described arranging restaurant meals for his potential business partners together with Netanyahu, in order to impress them.

“When I had to work with someone, I would invite them to dine with Bibi,” he reportedly said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. “I arranged a dinner in Monaco every day, and every time I invited the person, I wanted to consolidate ties with.

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“When he was with me in Paris, I took him wherever I wanted. He did what I wanted. When he gets money and all from you, it’s done. There are no more limits. You can ask him for anything,” he said.

Mimran detailed various sums of money he paid Netanyahu in cash, usually €10,000 or €20,000.

He claimed that on one occasion, he’d transferred a million US dollars to Netanyahu via Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in 2008. Mimran didn’t say how or when the payment was made, adding: “I told Bibi, ‘I found the person who will fund you.’

“Netanyahu asked me for $50,000. He paid for his vacation, and in the end he said it was good, that nothing had remained.”

Arnaud Mimran arrives at the Paris courthouse for deliberations in his trial over an alleged carbon tax scam, on July 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)

Mimran said he had funded vacations for Netanyahu and the premier’s wife Sara in Miami, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Deauville, the Courchevel ski resort, and the Plaza Athénée luxury hotel in Paris.

“I paid for everything, he didn’t pay,” said Mimran. On one occasion, he said, he had to cover a €2,600 bill for many breakfasts ordered by the Netanyahus at Plaza Athénée during a three-day stay.

He said Sara Netanyahu would take a second glass of orange juice and order it as a full second breakfast, saying: “She didn’t care at all.”

He also described Netanyahu’s fondness for fish served at a local brasserie, cigars and Panerai luxury watches.

“I bought one [watch] for myself. He liked it, so I bought one for him too. He liked gifts; politicians are freeloaders,” Mimran said of the premier.

The businessman boasted that he had maintained a “powerful network of relationships” that included Netanyahu and French lawmaker Meyer Habib, also a Netanyahu associate. He took pride in using that network to thwart telecom deals in Israel by one of his “enemies in France.”

French MP Meyer Habib (L) with Sara Netanyahu (C) and Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, July 1, 2021. (Facebook; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Mimran claimed it was thanks to him that Habib had been elected to parliament, saying he had “funded everything for him” and “helped him make money for 20 years.”

Habib also denied Mimran’s claims, calling him “a prisoner in distress.”

Mimran is serving two prison sentences — 13 years over a 2021 conviction for the kidnapping, jailing and blackmailing of a rival Turkish-Swiss businessman, and eight years for a 2016 conviction over a €283 million scam involving the trade of carbon emissions permits and the taxes on them.

The latter case, known as the carbon emissions scam, has been called the biggest fraud case in the EU’s history. It is believed to have caused billions in damage in 2009 by fraudulently exploiting the differences in how industrialized nations encouraged reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

The case also embroiled Netanyahu after Mimran testified to giving Netanyahu $200,000 in 2009, when he was running for prime minister, to fund his election campaign.

Netanyahu denied that account, asserting that the contribution was made in 2001, amounted to the much smaller sum of $40,000 and funded public diplomacy efforts rather than a personal campaign.

Israeli law limits individual campaign contributions to NIS 11,480 (€2,670).