Jerusalem: The name of Ratan Tata figures in the Israeli police recommendations seeking to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on graft charges, according to an Israeli media report, which was on Wednesday dismissed by the Indian industrialist’s office as “grossly incorrect” in its references about him.
In the so-called Case 1000, in which Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, Israeli-born Hollywood producer Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, the Indian industrialist is also said to be a part of a project that Netanyahu tried to push forward to help Milchan.
“According to the police, the most glaring example of Netanyahu working against Israel’s interests to benefit Milchan was his efforts (to) promote a free trade zone on the Israel-Jordan border, a project the Hollywood producer sought to promote as part of his partnership with Indian Industrialist Ratan Naval Tata,” Ynetnews reported.
The project, which police noted went against the recommendations of the defence establishment, would have generated Milchan and Tata “a huge profit,” but ended up being scrapped because it would’ve cost the state an unreasonable amount in security expenses, the news portal said.
Commenting on the news report, the Indian industrialist’s office on Wednesday told PTI that it’s “grossly incorrect in its references about Mr. Ratan N. Tata”.
Last year, the Israeli media reported that Tata “testified” before the Israeli police in connection to these allegations during his trip to Tel Aviv in the end of October-November on the sidelines of a business event.
A statement emailed to PTI by Tata’s office did not deny the meeting between him and the Israeli officials. But it said the reports in the Israeli media on the contents of the meeting are “factually incorrect and appear to have been motivated”.
The statement released by Tata’s office:
The office of Mr. Ratan N. Tata wishes to make a statement on his behalf to put out correct facts in relation with the reportage yesterday in a section of the Israeli media.
The ‘Tata project’, being referred to by the Israeli media, was a proposal received by Mr. Tata in 2009 from the Israeli establishment seeking the assistance of the Tata organisation in preparing a concept plan, as part of a broader peace initiative with Palestine, for a low volume automotive assembly plant on the banks of the Jordan river. The intention was to provide skilled employment to Palestinians. To be viable, the plan envisaged the establishment of a free trade corridor to Haifa to facilitate exports and offset higher logistics costs in Israel.
These discussions on the project were directly held between a Tata team and the Israeli authorities, and not with Mr. Arnon Milchan, as stated by the Israeli media. Mr. Tata wishes to clarify once again that there has never been any partnership in any such project with Mr. Milchan.
A broad concept plan for a low output automobile assembly plant was prepared by Tata Motors. It never reached the stage of detailed planning or costing, as the peace initiative itself was not put in place. The car project died a natural death.
During Mr. Tata’s visit to Tel Aviv, on November 1, 2017, to address a conference on Mobility, he met a team of Israeli investigators at their request, and enunciated these facts to them.
Mr. Tata reiterates that the reports in the media of a “partnership with Mr. Arnon Milchan” and the claim of “a huge profit” are both factually incorrect and appear to be motivated.
(With PTI inputs)