The Movement for Quality Government wrote to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Police Inspector-General Yaakov Shabtai on Monday night, asking them to probe whether documents exposed by the “Pandora Papers” prove that Likud MK Nir Barkat broke the law.
The watchdog group said the allegations needed to be checked properly and thoroughly.
The Pandora Papers is the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration, with over 600 journalists from 117 countries analyzing over 11.9 million documents, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The documents expose over 330 politicians from over 90 countries.
The papers revealed that Barkat transferred shares in several companies to his brother Eli Barkat when he was elected to the Knesset in 2019, despite the Ethics Committee requiring new MKs to sell or lease their holdings to a person who is not a relative. The reports said Barkat also held shares of a large company that registered in a tax haven instead of in Israel. At the beginning of this year, the company in question expected that its profits in 2025 would stand at about $700 million, according to Shomrim, a nonprofit investigative journalism newsroom and ICIJ’s partner in Israel.
Barkat's holding company, BRM, in 2007 participated in the initial capital raising for eToro, a social network for trading in the capital market, based in Bnei Brak but registered in the Virgin Islands, according to Shomrim. In March 2021, eToro announced that it would enter the NASDAQ at a value of about $10 million.
In a statement on Twitter, Barkat, who is the wealthiest MK, personally responded to the charges for the first time on Monday night.
"I am not surprised by the attacks on me," he wrote. "You know who is behind attempts at character assassination of Likud and right-wing leaders. Despite the lies and slander printed in the media, I pay my taxes only in Israel."
אני לא מופתע מהמתקפות נגדי עכשיו, אתם יודעים היטב מהיכן מגיעים הנסיונות לחסל מנהיגים בימין ובליכוד. בניגוד להשמצות ולשקרים שפורסמו בתקשורת, את המסים שלי אני משלם אך ורק במדינת ישראל. מבדיקה שערכתי הבוקר, לאורך השנים שילמתי יותר מחצי מיליארד ש״ח מס למדינת ישראל>>1/3 pic.twitter.com/xB8vP9tjN6— ניר ברקת (@NirBarkat) October 4, 2021
Barkat said that over the years he had paid the State of Israel more than NIS 500 million and his companies had paid billions of shekels in taxes, created tens of thousands of jobs and employed tens of thousands of Israelis who themselves pay taxes to Israel.
"When I was young, my father blessed me that I will pay a lot of taxes to Israel and be able to work in public service for a shekel a year," Barkat wrote. "I am proud that I have had the honor of fulfilling my father's blessing."
Barkat's office responded earlier in the week that he handed over management of all his business dealings to his brother 18 years ago when he entered the public arena, and that upon entering the Knesset, he submitted documents for blind management plus a full capital statement to the Knesset Ethics Committee.
“It should be noted that the law allows a Knesset member to transfer his business to blind management to a relative who was a partner in his business in the past,” Barkat’s office said. “It is difficult to separate the political interests they have felt in publishing this ridiculous ‘investigation’ from the fact that Barkat is marked as one of the leaders who could bring the Likud back to power.”