From the Times of Israel:
Police say PM sought to accelerate amendment on tax exemptions for new immigrants; critics say law has helped turn Israel into a paradise for tax evaders and money launderers
For more than a year, it has been widely reported that police were investigating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in connection with gifts of cigars and champagne from businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer. But it was unclear — if the prime minister was to be charged with bribery — what exactly the police believed Netanyahu had offered in return.
But unveiling their long-anticipated recommendations for indicting Netanyahu, police on Tuesday finally revealed a key missing piece of information: The central favor they believe Netanyahu provided both Milchan and Packer, in exchange for gifts totaling NIS 1 million (NIS 750,000 shekels from Milchan and NIS 250,000 from Packer), was an attempt to alter a little-known tax exemption law known as Amendment 168 to the Tax Ordinance.
Ostensibly a piece of legislation meant to encourage aliyah (immigration to Israel) by Jews living abroad, Amendment 168 to the Income Tax Ordinance was signed into law in September 2008 by former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
However, the law flies in the face of international anti-money laundering standards and each year for the past several years the finance minister has tried to abrogate it. But each year the effort to cancel it is scuttled, putting Israel in danger of being placed on international sanctions lists.
Amendment 168 grants a 10-year tax exemption on income earned abroad to new immigrants as well as to returning residents who have lived abroad for at least 10 years. In addition, the amendment gives those eligible a 10-year exemption on reporting earnings abroad.
Police now believe, based on the testimony of former finance minister Yair Lapid, that Netanyahu sought unsuccessfully to extend the exemption to 20 years, on behalf of Milchan and Packer.
… Andrew Amolis, a South African economist who studies the migration patterns of the very wealthy for New World Wealth, a global market research group, told the Times of Israel that Israel has consistently been one of the world’s top destinations for millionaires for the past several years — many of them from France.
… But the law has attracted criminals as well.
Several thousand French new immigrants to Israel are said to be making their living working in boiler rooms and perpetrating various types of scams against victims abroad. More than ten thousand Israelis, many of them new immigrants, are employed in such fraud industries, which include fraudulent online gambling, binary options, CEO scams, forex, diamond scams, cryptocurrency scams, lead-generation scams and many others.
Arnon Milchan is a pretty interesting guy. From Wikipedia:
Arnon Milchan (Hebrew: ארנון מילצ’ן; December 6, 1944) is an Israeli billionaire businessman who has produced over 130 full-length motion pictures. Milchan, the owner of New Regency Films, was an Israeli intelligence operative from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.
Milchan produced numerous critical and financial successes. He is the founder of Regency Enterprises. Regency’s film credits include Oscar winners and nominees, as well as popular financial hits, including 12 Years a Slave, L.A. Confidential, JFK, Heat, Fight Club, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and many more. He is an Israeli citizen and a resident of Israel.
…Speculation about Milchan’s involvement in arms dealing and intelligence activities was sparked after the indictment in 1985 of Dr. Richard Kelly Smyth, an [American] aerospace executive and scientist who had made illegal shipments of Krytrons (nuclear triggers) through one of Milchan’s companies. This remained largely in the category of rumor until biographers Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman wrote a controversial unauthorized biography of Milchan that was published in July 2011. The biography Confidential, which is largely sympathetic to Milchan, revealed in detail how he involved himself in espionage, big-ticket arms-dealing, and obtaining sensitive technology and materials for Israel’s nuclear weapons program. … Israeli President Shimon Peres stated:
“Arnon is a special man. It was I who recruited him…. When I was at the Ministry of Defense, Arnon was involved in numerous defense-related procurement activities and intelligence operations. His strength is in making connections at the highest levels…. His activities gave us a huge advantage, strategically, diplomatically and technologically.” …
Milchan claimed to have used connections to promote the apartheid regime in South Africa in exchange for it helping Israel acquire uranium for its nuclear program.
So perhaps Netanyahu’s defense will include the argument that Milchan is a national hero for his clandestine operations and thus deserves a little financial rake-off?
By the way, I am getting the impression that the Israeli Right swings a lot of weight on the business side of the American entertainment industry …