Barak's lawyers begin media blitz to clear his name

Navot Tel-Zur says that close reading of State Comptroller report provides evidence clearing Barak of any wrong doing.

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 18, 2011 22:39
4 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ehud Barak 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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A day after the State Comptroller issued a highly critical assessment on financial transactions committed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak prior to his appointment in 2007, Barak’s lawyers began a media blitz to clear his name Wednesday morning.

In an interview to IBA radio, Barak’s attorney Navot Tel-Zur, said that close reading of the report provides evidence clearing Barak of any wrong doing. Meanwhile on IDF radio, his partner attorney Ram Caspi claimed that the calls for Barak to resign were driven by antagonism to Barak the person and not for any alleged misdeeds.

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Barak’s lawyers preferred to see the report, which concluded that, “Barak’s actions did not meet the public norms expected from a cabinet minister or someone who is in place to become one,” as a general critique of the way successful businessmen make the transition from the private to the public sector and not as a direct comment on Barak’s behavior.

The report found that Barak had transferred stock from his consulting firm Ehud Barak Ltd to his daughters merely three days before joining the government and did not disclose his full holdings to the government to be inspected as required of a minister. The report said that had Barak chosen to ask for a postponement in filing the material, he would have been granted one and avoided the appearance of conflict of interest.

“The headlines this morning talk about scathing criticism, but I think you have to read the report itself to find that it includes substantive findings that clear the Defense Ministry completely from the early suspicions and claims made against him that led to the investigation in the first place,” said Tel-Zur.

The lawyers said the State Comptrollers report cleared Barak of all allegations of receiving improper funds as Defense Minister and acting in conflict of interest.



“I choose to see the State Comptrollers criticism as a recommendation that even those who are candidates for a ministerial role, take on the guidelines governing ministers, even if they are not legally obligated to. The Defense Minister has already said that he embraces the recommendations,” said Tel-Zur.

“It must be noted that Barak was appointed to his post in 2007 with just three business days of advanced warning. He took the must urgent action he was able to in order to remove himself from the company he ran when he was a businessman. The State Comptroller stated that it would have better to take a different course. That is constructive criticism, which we accept. There is no grain of corruption here,” said Tel Zur.

The lawyer added that any funds pulled out of the company by Barak, were done so with permission and stressed that all of the company’s earnings were for services rendered prior to Barak’s leaving the company and in any case had no connection to his job as Defense Minister.

Caspi said that the attacks on Barak were unjustified.

“People like to hate Barak and he doesn’t deserve it. We are talking about a person who dedicated his entire life for the benefit of the state of Israel. There are claims that he also provided generously for himself, but a person is allowed to do so, just as he’s allowed to go into public service,” Caspi said.

Meanwhile the number of voices calling on the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation based on the state Comptrollers report are increasing.

Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) called the report “the most severe one to ever come out against a serving minister,” immediately after its release and said he would hold a special committee hearing in the upcoming days to determine whether it merits a criminal investigation by the Attorney General.

Calls to have Barak investigated were later echoed by other MKs and legal forums from the right.

On Wednesday, anti-corruption watchdog group, Ometz, sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, stating that even though the report did not find Barak culpable of criminal actions, it warranted a police investigation to determine whether an indictment should be lodged.

“Ometz believes that Barak, allegedly, mislead the State Comptroller in the material he passed on to him regarding his business, both in Ehud Barak Ltd and its daughter companies.” Read the letter. “There are suspicions that the transfer of stock of the mother company to Barak’s daughters did not completely sever his ties from the companies and was not done according to the rules. Barak also concealed information relating to the daughter companies, which operated with links to the primary one.”

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