A Belarusian woman has told the court last week how businessman Daniel Molkandov forced her to have sex with former Shas MK Amnon Cohen as a form of bribe given to the politician.
“Daniel said Amnon would come to visit us and that I had to have sex with him. I entered an intimate relationship with Amnon because I was afraid,” she said in her early testimony at the Lod District Court, which was only cleared for publication this week.
Cohen, who was an MK for 16 years, is suspected of receiving bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. Among other things, he’s suspected of receiving sexual favors in return for promoting Molkandov’s business interests.
The incidents in question occurred in 2007, when Cohen was still serving as an MK.
The woman, a divorcée with financial difficulties who is raising her young sister on her own after their mother was murdered, said she was invited to Israel by a friend and arrived in the country as a tourist. “I wanted to rest a little, both mentally and physically. I was wiped out and very tried.
I wanted a change of scenary,” she said.
She said had a superficial acquaintance with Molkandov, who she met abroad, but did not know who Cohen was beforehand, nor did she come to Israel for the former MK.
“Daniel met me at the airport,” she said of Molkandov. “One day … we visited the Knesset, went up to Amnon Cohen’s office and he was presented as a member of Knesset.
They talked amongst them, Amnon escorted us to the exit, and we left.”
Her next meeting with Cohen, she said, was at the Dead Sea, where she went “just to see the views.”
According to the Belarusian woman, it was there that Molkandov demanded that she had sex with Cohen. She relented because she was afraid that Molkandov, who she said raped her three times before, would hurt or kill her.
“I did it because I was afraid of Daniel, I feared for my life,” she explained. She described Molkandov as “a smart, cunning and tough man. He knows how to manipulate people.”
She said she didn’t remember whether Molkandov specifically told her she had to have sex with Cohen. “I don’t remember it word for word. ‘What difference does it make to you? What do you care?’ He didn’t explain anything to me.”
She also noted Molkandov did not specifically tell her why he was demanding that she had sex with Cohen.
She went on to explain that Molkandov “didn’t ask, he pressured me. I couldn’t say no to him. He meant for me to agree.”
“Amnon came to the hotel late at night and left early in the morning,” she said. When asked why, she replied: “I don’t remember why exactly, I can guess it was because he’s a public figure and no one could know about it.”
“We went into one of the rooms and had sex, fully naked. We stayed in the room until morning. We didn’t talk,” the woman recounted.
She also met with Cohen at an apartment owned by Molkandov in Ness Ziona. “Daniel told me Amnon will come to say goodbye to me and that I needed to have sex with him then as well.”
Coehn, she said, “came in the evening and we had sex. He gave me three lipsticks as a gift but didn’t speak to me at all … then he left the room.”
She claimed she was not paid and that in hindsight she realized she had been taken advantage of by Molkandov.
“Daniel always boasted that he had an acquaintance with Amnon Cohen. In hindsight I realized Daniel was using me to achieve his goals,” she said.
Cohen’s lawyers pressed the woman, accusing her of lying. Her reaction was decisive: “This is my body and I know with whom I had sex and with whom I didn’t.
I was used. I remember that every day.”
She was asked why she told the police only of her meeting with Cohen at the Dead Sea but failed to mention the meeting at the apartment. “I might have been stressed.
These events happened a long time ago, I needed to remember,” she said.
She had difficulty identifying a scar Cohen is said to have on his body, saying that “in both cases it was dark in the room.”
The investigation opened against Cohen in 2015 was closed, but a new development significantly established the suspicions against the MK, leading to the reopening of the case.
Cohen was arrested last month and later put on house arrest. He has not yet been indicted and denies any wrongdoings.
Three weeks before giving her testimony, the Belarusian woman, who was on a visit to Israel and had already boarded her plane back to Belarus, was taken off the plane by police because the prosecution was worried she would leave the country before the trial and not return.
She was therefore asked to provide an early testimony. If Cohen is indicted, her testimony would be admissible in court.
Cohen’s lawyers said in a statement, “As you can see from the testimony heard in court, Amnon Cohen has never accepted bribes… what did become apparent in the testimony is grave things Molkandov has done to the witness.
We are confident investigative authorities and the prosecution will thoroughly check the matter.”
Molkandov, who splits his time between Israel and Belarus, is being investigated on suspicions of bribery and rape.
He has yet to be questioned as he is out of the country.
Molkandov’s lawyers said in response: “We did not represent him in the process, but we were present as a courtesy to the court.
In our opinion, this entire process is being managed in a distorted manner and not in line with the commitments made by the prosecution according to which no use will be made of information provided by Molkandov. For this reason we petitioned the High Court of Justice.”