A senior legal official on Tuesday rejected allegations that former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein conspired to sabotage a probe by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira into suspected financial irregularities in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s travel expenses.
Earlier Tuesday, shortly before the release of Shapira’s damning report on the so-called “Bibi Tours” affair, Deputy Knesset Chairman Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) claimed that “behind-the-scenes efforts were made to smooth over the affair, and prolong the comptroller’s investigation in an effort to outlast the statute of limitations.”
However, a source close to Weinstein told Israel Radio on Tuesday evening that Shapira, not Weinstein, was responsible for delays in the probe, and said that the state comptroller carried out the audit in a piecemeal fashion.
The comptroller’s latest report, published at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, found that as finance minister a decade ago, Netanyahu had private donors and organizations fund most of his trips as well as cover travel expenses for his wife and children, and failed to clear the information with the Knesset.
The complicated affair, dubbed “Bibi Tours” by the Hebrew press, centers on allegations that Netanyahu had double-billed travel expenses while serving as a member of Knesset and minister in prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government.
In his report, Shapira chided Netanyahu for failing to approach legal experts to weigh in on whether trips between 2003 and 2005, represented a conflict of interest or illicit gifts.
Some allegations were omitted from the report pending the attorney general’s examination of the case, Shapira said.
But, according to a statement published on the prime minister’s Facebook page shortly after the report was released, “there was no conflict of interest, no double billing and nothing illegal.
The years of “bombastic headlines” have revealed a “mountain to be a molehill,” the prime minister said.