(photo credit: INIMAGE)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira announced late Monday night that he will publish his final report on Bottlegate regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife’s supposed misdemeanors on February 17.
Bottlegate refers to allegations that Sara Netanyahu, and possibly others connected to her activities, may have improperly turned in deposit bottles for receipt of cash, though the bottles were bought with state funds.
The announcement comes after intense media speculation over the issue, though little has been made clear by the comptroller or Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein about what implications the allegations might have.
Netanyahu released a statement late Monday predicting that the comptroller will find that he had acted properly.
He called Meni Naftali, the former worker at his residence who was the source of Bottlegate, a liar and accused him of trying to take money away from the state while besmirching him and his wife.
The prime minister accused members of the media of trying to scare the comptroller and attorney-general into cooperating with their effort to topple him.
“We will not let this political campaign distract the public from the central issue: Who will protect Israeli security,” he said.
A Dialog poll in Haaretz found that Bottlegate had not harmed Netanyahu politically.
The poll predicted 25 seats for Likud and 23 for the Zionist Union. A poll by the same pollster a week ago predicted 25 for the Zionist Union and 23 for Likud.
On a related note, the accountant in the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement Sunday night saying that some NIS 88,964 was spent in 2009-2010 in the Prime Minister’s Office on wine and beverages.
This was double the amount the accountant first mentioned on Friday, following a television report the night before on the story. That first figure, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, was based on an initial inquiry into expenditures.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that a more detailed audit on Sunday, however, including going over the invoices individually, revealed that the discrepancy was due to one supplier using two different VAT account numbers, and that the initial check saw only one of those accounts.
According to the statement, the wine purchases accounted for “less than half” of the money the Prime Minister’s Office spent on beverages.
Earlier Sunday, Shapira’s and Weinstein’s offices appeared to trade statements of confusion about which office was supposed to be taking the lead on Bottlegate.
Also, Sunday, Shapira called on Weinstein to investigate the leaking of portions of his draft report on the “Bibi Tours” affair, which has been attributed by the media to Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker.
Shapira called the leaking of drafts of his report “an improper phenomenon and a violation of the law.”
A spokesman for Shapira also rejected a report by Channel 2 that there was an emphasis in the report on a possible criminal angle, while not going into detail about what the report would conclude.
In September, Weinstein closed his review of the “Bibi Tours” scandal, determining there was little chance of it leading to an indictment, but the comptroller’s report had still not been published.
The affair involved Netanyahu’s flights allegedly being funded by wealthy associates, from the late 1990s to early 2000s.
“At the end of the day, in light of the balance of evidence collected, it could not be found that there was a basis to open a full criminal investigation,” the attorney-general previously had said.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.