Hollywood Producer in the Spotlight in Netanyahu Probe

Israeli police said last month that they had questioned Mr. Milchan—who has financed Academy Award-winning movies such as “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman”—about whether he gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gifts in return for favors.

.. Mr. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing. “It is allowed, according to the law, to accept presents from friends,” the prime minister said in response to questions at a January session of Israel’s parliament, after the probes were first reported publicly.

.. Mr. Milchan has had connections with several Israeli politicians over the years. Ehud Olmert, who later served as Israel’s prime minister, came up with “Pretty Woman” as the title for the 1990 film produced by Mr. Milchan, according to a 2011 biography, “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan.”

.. Police are investigating whether Mr. Netanyahu in return lobbied former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for a visa for Mr. Milchan, Israeli media reported.

According to former U.S. officials, Mr. Netanyahu asked U.S. officials in 2014 to intervene at the State Department to renew a visa for Mr. Milchan.

.. In his role as an Israeli agent, Mr. Milchan helped procure equipment from the U.S. for Israel’s secret nuclear program, according to the biography, which said Mr. Milchan served as an officer for Israel’s now-defunct Bureau of Scientific Relations.

.. Mr. Milchan’s business partner in the U.S., Richard Kelly Smyth, was charged in 1985 with smuggling materials to Israel that could be used for nuclear purposes. Mr. Smyth was charged with breaking U.S. export laws and spent 16 years on the run before being convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Mr. Milchan wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing.