PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on his 65th birthday..
(photo credit: GPO)
Legal authorities appear to be on the verge of launching a criminal probe against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife for alleged misuse of public funds, The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Ma’ariv is reporting on Monday.
The news comes after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein convened his top aides for consultations regarding the alleged scandal that has come to be known in media circles as “Bottlegate.”
“Bottlegate” refers to allegations that Sara Netanyahu and possibly others under her direction improperly returned used drink bottles for their deposits and kept the cash, though the drinks were bought with state funds.
This past June, state comptroller Yosef Shapira received a complaint alleging problematic behavior at the prime minister’s residence.
Shapira on Sunday called for Weinstein to investigate the leaking of portions of his draft report on the so-called “Bibi tours” affair, which have 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.”
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 Prime Minister Benjamin 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 the evidence collected, it could not be found that there was a basis to open a full criminal investigation” of the prime minister, the attorney general previously said.
During the course of the Bibi tours investigation, the ombudsman, Shapira, began to look into two other complaints that shed light on alleged criminal conduct – the Bottlegate affair, and the lawn furniture controversy.
The Netanyahu family is alleged to have replaced brand new lawn furniture purchases for the prime minister’s residence with furniture from their private home in Caesarea.
Weinstein asked that Shapira specify the date on which he plans to release the details of the Bottlegate investigation. Media reports indicated that the comptroller held off on publishing the report until after the upcoming elections in response to a request from Netanyahu’s attorney.