The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday night called a report in Globes, that said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had an offshore bank account in the years 1999-2003, an attempt to discredit him that “does not match the facts.”
According to the Globes report by Lilach Weissman, in the years following Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, when he was giving lectures around the world for pay, he held an account in the Royal Bank of Scotland in Jersey, a tax haven.
Offshore bank accounts are legal, as long as they are reported to the Tax Authority.
However, by opening an account in a tax haven, Netanyahu avoided his own tax reform, enacted while he was finance minister. In addition, the Tax Authority to which Netanyahu had to report the account was his ministerial responsibility.
The account in Jersey was also used while Netanyahu was foreign minister.
The Global Financial Centers Index ranked Jersey as the top tax haven in the world in 2010.
Netanyahu paid his lawyers, including Yitzhak Molcho, who is representing him in peace talks with the Palestinians, and David Shimron, his personal attorney and a distant cousin, from the account.
Molcho and Shimron own a law firm together.
He paid media advisers and his office chief from the account while he was on a break from politics.
In addition, the prime minister moved funds from Jersey to a Chase Manhattan Bank account managed by Lehman Brothers in 2002, according to documents Weissman obtained, which are signed by Netanyahu.
Last year, Forbes Israel ranked Netanyahu the sixth-wealthiest politician in Israel, with a net worth of NIS 41 million.
The magazine reported that Netanyahu earned most of his money in the years 1999-2001, including NIS 15m. from giving lectures. He bought his home in Caesarea in 2002.
Following the Globes report, the Prime Minister’s Office clarified that “the account has not been active since 2003. In 1999, after he finished his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu made an investment that did not give him any advantage over the taxes in Israel. The accounts and deposits were reported in full to the authorities in Israel, including the Israeli Tax Authority, and was included in his declaration of wealth,” the Prime Minister’s Office added.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor) said that “every day we find out anew that our prime minister doesn’t stick to public norms.”
“Netanyahu has no problem spending NIS 80,000 of the public’s money on water and candles, but to avoid paying taxes he’ll run all the way to a distant island,” Shmuli said.
In 1977, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned because he had an bank account in the US. At the time, it was illegal to have a bank account abroad.