Likud: We have proof PM never double-billed flights

A-G office announces Weinstein will review evidence prior to deciding whether to open probe into the so-called Bibi-Tours scandal.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, HERB KEINO
April 8, 2011 03:17
3 minute read.
Incoming Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

weinstein 311. (photo credit: Channel 2)

 
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The Likud on Thursday evening issued what it described as proof that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had not double-billed flight expenses, hours after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s office announced that he would review evidence prior to deciding whether to open a probe into the so-called Bibi-Tours scandal.

Party officials said that attorney David Shimron, who represents Netanyahu, had provided proof that the two organizations allegedly both billed for the same flights were actually the same organization.

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One day earlier, Channel 10’s news-expose program Hamakor alleged that Netanyahu doublebilled travel expenses. According to the report, Netanyahu attended a fundraising event in the US in 2006 for the Ashdod Medical Center, billing it $8,237 for the flights. He also allegedly billed the Jewish Heritage Foundation the same amount for flights taken on the same dates.

If correct, this would contradict statements made last week by Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, that there was no double-billing involved in flights Netanyahu took.

But Shimron claimed that the Jewish Heritage Foundation International is the organization that gathers donations for the Ashdod Medical Center.

Earlier in the day, Kadima representatives requested that Weinstein open a criminal investigation into the affair.

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“The requests that were received by the attorney-general’s office will be examined as soon as possible by the attorney-general and prosecutors,” responded Weinstein’s office in an official statement. “After that, it will be decided if there are grounds to continue the probe in our office, or if we must wait until the conclusion of the state comptroller’s probe and its findings.”

On a state visit to Germany, Netanyahu attempted to avoid answering questions regarding the Channel 10 investigation.

“It is unfortunate that in the course of a visit so important both for defense and for diplomacy, I need to discuss false defamations by people who are interested in damaging me politically,” said Netanyahu. The premier added that on Sunday he intends to file a lawsuit for libel against Channel 10.

Shimron said that the then-opposition leader acted according to the law during all his trips.

“There was not one agora of double- billing,” Shimron said. “A number of different organizations divided the travel expenses for the prime minister and his wife.

“This is an untrue report, with the goal of defaming and harming the prime minister; otherwise, it is hard to understand why the channel is determined for the second time to broadcast a report that is not true.”

Although State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will probe Netanyahu’s – and all other ministers’ and deputy ministers’ – travel funding, Kadima has argued that the allegations against the premier constitute criminal rather than ethical offenses.

The Likud mocked Kadima’s demand for an investigation, responding that “it would be better if Kadima, which invented the concept of double-funding in the Rishon-tours scandal, was more concerned with its own list of suspects before they begin to worry about other parties.”

Also on Thursday, State of Israel Bonds-Europe denied the allegations made by Channel 10’s Raviv Druker that, unbeknown to the organization, money meant to fund Netanyahu’s travel was used so Sara could join him.

“Israel Bonds has invited Netanyahu and his wife to events abroad according to the acceptable protocol observed by previous governments and ministers,” the organization said in a statement.

“Thus,” the Bonds spokesman explained, “we invited Netanyahu and his wife to London in 2004, and we were happy to have him participate in an event during the war in August 2006.”

The organization explained that Netanyahu is an especially popular lecturer, and that Israel Bonds was prepared to pay for his wife to travel in cases when Netanyahu received funding from the Knesset.

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