Police investigators will reportedly fly to the United Kingdom to question a British-American billionaire in a corruption investigation involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Police are expected to ask Soviet-born Leonard Blavatnik, an owner of Israel’s Channel 10 TV, if Netanyahu sought to mediate between Blavatnik and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes to facilitate the British-American billionaire’s purchase of the Hebrew daily, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
The TV report said to the police team would head to the UK on Wednesday.
Netanyahu is currently being investigated over his involvement in Case 2000, which involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
In addition to Blavatnik, a Channel 2 report in January said Netanyahu reached out to a number of other individuals to try to try to help broker a deal for them to buy or invest in Yedioth, including Australian billionaire James Packer, Oracle chief Larry Ellison, and Mattias Dopfner, the CEO of Germany’s Axel Springer publishing group.
Mozes is then believed to have met with several of those potential buyers, according to the report, which also said Arnon Milchan, the Israeli Hollywood producer who is at the center of a second corruption probe against Netanyahu, played a role in brokering some of those contacts.
Netanyahu is also being investigated in Case 1000, which revolves around suspicions the prime minister and his wife Sara receives illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from Milchan.
The Netanyahus deny any wrongdoing.
The Channel 2 report Tuesday came as a professor at the UK’s Oxford University stepped down from his post after saying that Blavatnik, a large donor to the school, was a top donor to US President Donald Trump.
Bo Rothstein, a professor at the university’s Blavatnik School of Goverment, which the British-American billionaire donated 75 million pounds ($97 million) to establish, said Trump’s policies were “antithetical” to the mission of the school and he therefore had to resign.
“President Trump stands for a system of governing that is completely contrary to what I have come to define as ‘quality of government,’” he wrote in his resignation letter, according to the Guardian.
“As I see it, Donald Trump’s policies are also antithetical to the goal of the Blavatnik school of government, which aims to improve the quality of government and public policymaking worldwide, so that citizens can enjoy more secure and more fulfilled lives,” he added.
A spokesman for Blavatnik denied he was a major financial backer of Trump, telling the Guardian that while the billionaire gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, “neither Blavatnik nor any of his companies ever made a donation to the Trump presidential campaign.”
Blavatnik’s donation to Oxford was criticized at the time, with a group of academics writing in an open letter that the university was “selling its reputation and prestige to to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s associates.”
Blavatnik has been named as one of the UK’s richest men and his holding company Access Industries owns valuable firms in a number of industries.