Channel 10 investigative report alleges Netanyahu financed first-class trips via network of wealthy associates; PMO rejects "false accusations."
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, HERB KEINON
A day after an investigative report on Channel 10 television accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of ethical violations, Kadima took the lead Thursday in launching a multi-pronged assault against the premier, filing complaints with the police, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and with Acting Civil Service Commissioner Ehud Prauer.On Wednesday evening, Channel 10’s investigative program Hamakor alleged that Netanyahu utilized a carefully crafted network of wealthy associates to finance private flights, luxury hotel suites, first-class restaurants, and trips abroad for him and his family.RELATED:The government-tycoons-media triangle Investigation into corruption at Tax Authority continues According to the report, starting in July 2002, Netanyahu flew between speaking engagements in a personal jet loaned to him for that purpose – a favor permitted by law until Netanyahu re-entered politics in November 2002.The report suggested that there had been ethical flaws in Netanyahu’s behavior when donors and sponsors agreed to fly his aides and family on first-class flights, and treated them to luxury hotels, fancy cars, personal assistants, entertainment, and five-star restaurants.Reporter Raviv Drucker said Thursday that he had been working on the probe for two years, and that his concerns centered around the period 2003-2007. During those years, Drucker said, his research had uncovered 16 different trips made by Netanyahu in which the funding sources seemed to cross ethical boundaries.Although the prime minister and his wife may legally fly using state funds, the report argued that Netanyahu’s external relationships – and perks received during those trips – were ethically questionable.AdvertisementSeeing a ripe political opportunity, Kadima sprang into action Thursday morning, pressing for probes against Netanyahu.“The investigative report raises serious suspicions that the prime minister allegedly received perks at great expense, and that the prime minister allegedly violated party funding laws,” wrote State Control Committee Chairman MK Yoel Hasson to Lindenstrauss.In addition to receiving travel-related funds, Kadima MK Hasson complained, Netanyahu allegedly violated campaign funding laws by submitting only partial reports of donations received.Hasson said that the report indicated that in some cases, the donations received exceeded the limits imposed by campaign financing laws.Lindenstrauss has reportedly initiated a preliminary examination to determine whether there is a basis for a probe against Netanyahu. If his probe reveals suspicions of ethical violations alone, then Lindenstrauss will likely continue with a more in-depth probe.But if Lindenstrauss concludes that the evidence points to criminal violations, he is likely to turn the file over to Weinstein’s office.A letter sent by Kadima’s legal adviser, Eitan Haberman, to Weinstein, argued that the report’s contents “necessitate the opening of an investigation due to the criminal and ethical implications, the acceptance of personal benefits and conflicts of interest, which create a suspicion that Netanyahu has been methodically committing crimes over a long time, with a lot of money, using private and private individuals and organizations, while hiding information.”Also on Thursday, MK Shlomo Molla submitted an official complaint at the Yarkon Subdistrict Police Station in Tel Aviv against Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.“The things that were broadcast are serious and it seems that there may be, among them, violations of Israeli law – crimes of bribery, fraud, and violation of public trust,” said Molla.“Because this is the prime minister, it is very important that this cloud be removed by the Israel Police. Thus, I submitted this complaint and I hope that the Israel Police will look in to the complaint as quickly as possible in order to draw the necessary conclusions.”Police in Tel Aviv confirmed receiving the complaint against Netanyahu, and a police spokesman said the complaint will be transferred to national police headquarters and examined, before a decision is made on whether to investigate or not.Likud labeled Kadima’s call for an investigation “ridiculous.”“It is ridiculous that Kadima, which came up with the concept of ‘double funding’ for trips, is criticizing the prime minister for his behavior,” a statement released by the party read.“Unlike Kadima, where many members like Olmert, Hanegbi, Hirchson, Ramon, Lahiani, Gilad and Omri Sharon all have police records, Prime Minister Netanyahu is completely clean after decades of public service.”Netanyahu was in Moscow on Thursday, but the Prime Minister’s Office issued a response, saying the Channel 10 report was full of “recycled false accusations” that reflect Drucker’s longstanding goal of besmirching the name of the prime minister and his family.The statement underlined that Netanyahu was a private citizen from the time he left office as prime minister the first time in 1999 until November 2002, and that during that period he could do as he wished.The statement said Netanyahu never gave any benefits to any of his friends when he was a public figure, and that no organization ever paid for trips for his children when he held public office.
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