JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli authorities said Monday they are looking into a French tycoon's claim he gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more than $1 million for an election campaign, a possible violation of campaign finance laws.
The attorney general's office said it is probing Arnaud Mimran's testimony in France that he donated 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to one of Netanyahu's election campaigns. If true, such a sum would violate Israel's campaign finance laws.
Mimran is the key suspect in a carbon tax fraud case in France. He and others are accused of defrauding the state of 283 million euros in sales taxes.
The Israeli prime minister's office said any contribution to Netanyahu was done lawfully while he was a private citizen, and was not part of any election campaign donation.
It said in a statement that Mimran's claim of donating that sum to Netanyahu's election campaign is "a lie devoid of any foundation." It said that in 2001, when Netanyahu held no office, Mimran donated $40,000 to a public service fund used for public diplomacy tours abroad.
Mimran told Israel's channel 10 TV late Monday that he transferred a larger sum to Netanyahu's personal account.
He said that in 2001 he gave Netanyahu a million French francs, or around 170 thousand euros.
"I still have the bank statement, it is Arnaud Mimran, my personal account, to Benjamin Netanyahu, his personal account," he said.
"He can check on his account. This is not something he or I can hide," he said.
This story has been corrected to show the first name of the French tycoon is Arnaud, not Arnaut.