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State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has given Shimon Peres one week to provide explanations regarding three allegedly illegal donations, totaling $320,000, that he received, before handing the results of his findings to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.
The donations were first reported exclusively by The Jerusalem Post in January.
Peres' lawyer, Ram Caspi, told the Post he would not speak to the media about the affair before meeting with Lindenstrauss.
In a statement issued Thursday, Lindenstrauss made it clear that Peres was suspected of having broken criminal laws, particularly the Civil Service Law (Gifts). The Polticial Parties Law (Primaries for 17th Knesset) (Transitional Law) limited to NIS 40,000 the amount of money that a candidate for party leadership could receive from a single donor and his family. However, the law applied to a period of nine months before the primary election, whereas Peres received the contributions in December 2004, 11 months before the Labor Party primary. The contributions included $100,000 each from Haim Saban and Bruce Rappaport and $120,000 from Daniel Abrams.
So far, Lindenstrauss has only singled out Peres as a potential candidate for criminal investigation, but his spokeswoman, Shlomit Lavi, said he has not completed the investigation and other candidates may also be referred to Mazuz. The report on all the candidates is due to be released in a few weeks, he announced.
According to Lavi, a team of chartered accountants has been at work for the past three months, studying the books of some of the candidates. Lindenstrauss asked all primary contestants to provide a list of donors and the amounts of money each one gave. In his investigation, however, he did not suffice with the figures voluntary provided, although in the case of Peres, he himself provided the information on the three suspect donations.
According to a report published Thursday in the Internet news site News First Class, Lindenstrauss also intends to refer the case of Labor MK Matan Vilna'I to Mazuz. The news site mentioned one contribution of NIS 223,613 by a foreign company, recorded on August 16, 2005 and another of NIS 89,488, recorded the following week. Vilnai's spokeswoman denied the report and said it was two months old.
In the meantime, Lindenstrauss had sent Vilna'I queries about some of the donations he had received, and Vilna'i answered them to Lindenstrauss' satisfaction. "Matan is completely clean and there is nothing to compare between his case and Peres's," she said.