State comptroller investigates alleged freebies to Simhon

Got free flighs, hotel stays, group claims.

The watchdog organization Ometz said on Tuesday that the State Comptroller's Office was investigating allegations it had made that Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon of Labor had accepted free trips and hotel accommodation for himself and his family from a public company when he served as environment minister under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon. State Comptroller spokeswoman Shlomit Lavi declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Simhon denied the allegations. "There is no truth to these charges," she told The Jerusalem Post. We are certain that the State Comptroller's investigation will find no wrongdoing. Simhon paid for all his private trips with his own money." Ometz on Tuesday released a portion of the letter it sent to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in April in which it charged that "in 2004 and 2005, MK Shalom Simhon received favors from Cargo Air Lines (CAL) while serving as minister of environment." Cargo Air Lines transports exports of fresh agricultural produce and imports of heavy machinery, cattle and other agricultural-related products. In its announcement to the media, the watchdog organization included a letter listing the flights that Simhon allegedly took without paying. The name of the person who send the letter to Ometz head Aryeh Avneri had been erased. The list included the following trips: • September 16-19, 2004: Simhon, his wife and three children and his daughter's boyfriend were flown by CAL to Amsterdam and also given a car rental. It was not clear whether CAL paid for their stay in Amsterdam. • August 2005: Simhon and his wife flew to Iceland together with CAL's director-general, Yitzhak Tovli, and chairman of the board, Eitan Ben-David, and their wives. CAL paid for the flights, hotels and meals at restaurants. • October 21 or 22, 2005: Simhon and his wife flew to Luxembourg together with Ben-David and traveled from there to a gambling resort in Spa, Belgium. CAL paid for the flight, room and board. • December 29-31, 2005: Simhon and his wife flew to Liege, Belgium. Retroactively, the flight was paid for by CAL's director-general in Simhon's name. This was allegedly done to conceal the truth in the wake of the Agrexco affair, in which agricultural export company Agrexco paid for the flights of MKs to Europe and the US. According to the letter, all of the flights were handled personally by Tovli.