Comptroller to release report on spending at prime minister’s residence

Yosef Shapira’s investigation regarding alleged misappropriation of state funds by Netanyahu family will be published February 17

Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, celebrating his 65th birthday in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, celebrating his 65th birthday in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

A report into allegations of excessive expenditures and possible misappropriation of state funds by the Netanyahu family at the prime minister’s residence will be published later this month, Israel’s state comptroller said Monday, after days of speculation on whether the possibly damning paper would be released.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira notified Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein of his intention to publish the file on February 17. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his part, stated that he would address the allegations in full once the report was made public. “It will be proven that everything was done in accordance with the law,” Netanyahu said, according to Ynet.

The report “raises suspicion of misconduct that may even amount to criminal acts,” Shapira’s office said in a statement, adding that the collected information had been passed along to Weinstein.

The report will be published along with a report on the management of the Knesset and the management of the president’s residence.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The allegations discussed in the report suggest Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, pocketed thousands of shekels in returns on bottles recycled by the prime minister’s residence.

The allegations surfaced in recent weeks in a lawsuit by a former employee of the prime minister’s residence, and have been taken up by the election campaigns of parties hoping to oust the prime minister.

Since drinks consumed in the PM’s residence are purchased by the state, any funds accruing from them belong, by law, to the state treasury.

The Netanyahus said the funds were collected by them inadvertently, and noted that some NIS 4,000 ($1,017) was returned to state coffers in 2013 by Sara Netanyahu under the supervision of the financial regulator at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Statements from the prime minister in recent days accused left-wing parties of engaging in “personal” attacks against his family, instead of substantive debate.

Shapira promised Sunday to eventually publish a report on his investigation of the case after Haaretz reported over the weekend that the Netanyahus’ attorney, David Shimron, had requested a delay.

The comptroller’s office denied it had agreed to delay publication until after elections on March 17, and said Shapira’s office was preparing the report for publication.

No date was previously given for publication.

Shimron said he had asked that the report be widened to detail spending under other prime ministers, so that there was “a basis for comparison.” He told Army Radio on Sunday that a previous prime minister’s spending at his residences had been particularly large, but would not disclose which leader he had in mind.

The report goes beyond the recycled-bottles controversy and reportedly examines overall spending on luxuries in the premier’s residence on items such as flower arrangements, scented candles and catering.

According to the State Comptroller’s Office, Weinstein was informed some six months ago about the contents of the investigation.

Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party and co-leader of the Labor-led Zionist Camp Knesset slate, charged over the weekend that the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu consumed a minimum wage’s worth of alcohol — some NIS 4,300 — each month.

The PMO retorted on Sunday that an inquiry by the PMO’s financial regulator’s office showed the PM’s residence purchased, on average, a single bottle of wine per day during 2013 and 2014.

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