The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak has said he introduced the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to Black Cube, a Tel Aviv-based investigations firm reportedly hired by the producer to suppress sexual abuse allegations against him.
Mr Weinstein allegedly hired an "army of spies" in an attempt to stop accusers from going public with sexual misconduct claims against him, according to a report in the New Yorker this week.
The magazine claims that among the private security agencies hired by Weinstein, starting from around autumn 2016, was Black Cube, which is largely run by former officers of Israeli intelligence agencies, including Mossad .
“Over a year ago, Barak was asked by Harvey Weinstein if he knew an Israeli company he had heard of, that was capable of helping him with business issues he had. Barak confirmed to [Weinstein] the company he heard of was likely Black Cube,” a spokesperson for Mr Barak said in a statement.
“Barak is not personally familiar with the firm or its executives but gave Weinstein its contact information. Barak was not aware until this morning of the fact the company was hired by Weinstein, or for what purposes or operations,” the statement added.
The New Yorker alleges that two Black Cube investigators met with the actor Rose McGowan, who later publicly accused Mr Weinstein of rape , to obtain information. Mr Weinstein "unequivocally denies" all claims of non-consensual sex, a spokesperson for the producer said.
Black Cube has not replied to a request for comment, but it told Israeli media outlets that it did not discuss its clients, and said its work was legal.
On its website, Black Cube describes itself as a “select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specialises in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges”.
Mr Barak's statement coincides with dates in the New Yorker article which claimed that Mr Weinstein approached Black Cube in autumn 2016, as well as the corporate intelligence giant Kroll, to seek their assistance in silencing the emerging sexual abuse allegations against him.
The magazine also claims that one of the investigators secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan while pretending to be a women’s rights advocate, citing dozens of pages of documents and seven people directly involved in Mr Weinstein’s efforts.
The investigator reportedly used a different fake identity to meet a New York magazine journalist who was investigating allegations made against Mr Weinstein.
She also allegedly attempted to broker a meeting with Ronan Farrow, the New Yorker journalist who reported 13 claims of abuse made against Mr Weinstein last month, and also wrote the November 6th investigation into Mr Weinstein's links with Black Cube.
During the year that Black Cube reportedly worked for Mr Weinstein, agents allegedly collected information on dozens of people, compiling psychological profiles with their personal or sexual histories in order to contradict, discredit or intimidate his accusers.
The New Yorker reports that Mr Weinstein sought the assistance of ex-employees from his movie enterprises to help collect names and place calls. Investigations also allegedly sometimes went through Mr Weinstein's lawyers. Among them, the New Yorker claims, was David Boies, who represented Al Gore in his 2000 presidential election dispute with George W Bush.
The New Yorker claims Mr Boies had signed a contract demanding that Black Cube seek to uncover information to stop the publication of a New York Times story about Mr Weinstein's sexual abuse when his firm was also representing the New York Times in a libel case. Mr Boies told the magazine "it was a mistake" to have been involved with the investigators.
Mr Weinstein's spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, has dismissed the New Yorker report, saying: "It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time."
Neither Ms Hofmeister nor Mr Boies immediately responded to requests for comment.
After the publication of the New Yorker report, McGowan praised Farrow for his investigation , tweeting: "Ronan Farrow your words will line the halls of justice." Meanwhile, another person alleged to have been spied on, the actor Asia Argento, described the revelations as terrifying, writing on Twitter: "Why didn't I, [and actors] @rosemcgowan, @RoArquette @AnnabellSciorra spoke (sic) up earlier? We were followed by ex-Mossad agents. Isn't that terrifying? Very"
Police in London, Los Angeles and New York have launched investigations into the alleged behaviour by Mr Weinstein , who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than 90 women. – Guardian