Comptroller’s Report: Barak broke political finance rules

Hasson: Open criminal probe against defense minister and his daughters; Barak: I'll study, act on report's recommendations.

By RON FRIEDMAN, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 17, 2011 17:16
3 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ehud Barak 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Following the publication on Tuesday of an assessment by the state comptroller on alleged financial wrongdoings by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Knesset State Control Committee will hold a hearing soon to determine whether a criminal investigation by the attorney- general is merited.

“Barak’s actions did not meet the public norms expected from a cabinet minister, or from someone who is in place to become one,” the report read.

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According to the report, requested by the State Control Committee, the fact that Barak transferred funds from his company Ehud Barak LTD to his daughters only three days before joining the government – and the fact that he failed to notify the special exemptions committee of all his holdings – while not criminal, warranted concern over a conflict of interest.

The report dealt with actions Barak took before his appointment as defense minister in July 2007. Barak’s companies made more than NIS 4.5 million between 2007 and 2009, according to the document.

“Transferring Barak’s stocks to his daughters does not distance him completely from interest in the companies, as required by the regulations.

By avoiding turning to the committee as a ministerial candidate, transferring the stocks to his daughters prior to the appointment and in the absence of full disclosure, Barak created an arrangement that he likely couldn’t have reached had he turned to the committee,” the report read.

“Doing so, he also failed to bring the companies before the inspection of the state comptroller by signing an agreement with the government, as required by the regulations, and in such a way avoided effective supervision. The state comptroller believes that Barak should immediately sever all ties between him and the companies,” the report concluded.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said that though Barak transferred the funds before entering office, he had known about his expected appointment long beforehand, and should have acted earlier.

Barak on Tuesday thanked Lindenstrauss for the report and said he was studying it carefully, and would act on its recommendations. According to Barak, the report clears him of suspicions that he had received money in exchange for benefits granted while he was a minister.

He said the report proves that none of the company’s clients had any dealings with the Defense Ministry, and therefore there was never a concern over conflict of interests.

State Control Committee chairman Yoel Hasson, however, said the report on Barak was the most severe ever submitted on a cabinet minister, and called on the attorney-general to open a criminal investigation against Barak and his daughters.

“The attempt to cheat the public and present his actions as a mere technical problem collapsed in face of the ugly reality exposed by the state comptroller,” Hasson said. He added that failure to investigate Barak would prove that not all ministers were equal, and indicate that “what is illegal for the foreign minister, is legal for the defense minister.”

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of Hasson’s party, agreed that the attorney-general needed to investigate Barak.

“Any politician needs to be judged not just on what is criminal, but also on the basis of public norms,” she said. “The time has come for things that are done behind closed doors to come out so the public will know. Barak should show greater modesty.”

MK Aryeh Eldad, a former chairman of the Knesset Ethics Committee, said the report on Barak was very serious because it exposed the ways he managed to avoid disclosing vital information for the purposes of inspection as required by law.

“With all due respect to the state comptroller, he’s wrong. No one expects Barak to meet public norms any longer. The pubic has had it with him, and he should go home like any corrupt person,” Eldad said.


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