Netanyahu: Comptroller's report exonerates me

Prime Minister comes in for harsh criticism in long-awaited report - but Netanyahu's camp hails report as much ado about nothing.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

State comptroller Yosef Haim Shapira released his long-awaited annual report Tuesday afternoon - and slammd Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over his conduct in the so-call "Bibi-Tours affair."

The scandal, which revolves around a series of overseas visits during Netanyahu’s tenure as Finance Minister from 2003-2005, includes suspicions of double-billing for trips, acceptance of gifts in a manner barred by law for public servants, and improper use of state flight benefits for private travel.

According to the report, Netanyahu's family members - including wife Sara and their children - did indeed receive money from foreign funders to cover travel expenses - including a whopping $50,000 for flights for Sara.

In his report, Shapira summarized that, among other things, the evidence pointed towards "suspicions of double-billing," as well as a problematic "lack of clarity" regarding the use of bonus points by the Netanyahu family on Israel's El Al airlines.

He criticized Netanyahu for not seeking legal advice regarding the proper use of travel expenses.

Other related suspicions were not permitted for publication by the Attorney General, as they are still being reviewed.

According to Channel 2, the police and justice ministry are both analyzing the findings to ascertain whether to launch criminal proceedings.

However, no formal charges have been leveled nor has any police investigation against the Prime Minister been opened.

But responding to the report's publication, sources close to Netanyahu said he had been vindicated, noting that the criticisms of him fell far short of what many had been suggesting.

The source accused Netanyahu's detractors of "making a mountain out of a molehill," after "years of bombastic headlines".

He added that the report proved that there were "no conflicts of interests, no double-billing and nothing illegal" in Netanyahu's travel arrangements.

"For years Netanyahu and his family have been inspected with a fine tooth comb, and they didn't find anything - because there isn't anything."

In May and December of 2015, Shapira transferred to the Attorney General’s Office new evidence which suggests then-Finance Minister Netanyahu may have committed criminal offenses.

The new evidence was not released in the annual report.

The report is the first formal document released by the state comptroller’s office since the scandal was first documented by the comptroller in 2010. A previous report prepared by Shapira’s predecessor was never completed.

Shapira had clashed with former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, over the latter's decision to discontinue his investigation. Weinstein had cited a lack of evidence in closing the probe.