Ombudsman said expected to okay PM’s request for loan to pay legal bills

AG reportedly tells Yosef Shapira he can approve request on his own and not bring it to Permits Committee, which has rejected Netanyahu’s appeals for outside funding

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) in December 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) in December 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Outgoing State Comptroller Yosef Shapira is expected to approve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for a loan from a wealthy benefactor to help pay for his legal bills in a series of corruption cases, Israeli television reported on Tuesday.

According to Channel 12 news, Shapira was told by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in recent days that he can approve the loan request on his own and not submit it to the State Comptroller Permits Committee. He is expected to green light the loan, according to the report.

The network previously reported Shapira would consider approving the loan if it was made under commercial standards and the arrangement was approved by the attorney general as not constituting a conflict of interest.

Netanyahu is seeking to borrow the money from Spencer Partrich, an American businessman and acquaintance of the prime minister.

Spencer Partrich (Courtesy)

On Monday, the Permits Committee rejected Netanyahu’s request to use contributions from Partrich to help foot his defense bills.

The rejection came after Netanyahu’s defense team said it would not comply with the committee request to hand over a declaration of assets, as well as the full details of the relationship between Netanyahu and Partrich. The panel refused to grant the prime minister’s attorney a meeting to explain why information about Netanyahu’s assets should remain private.

Netanyahu had also sought to receive money for his legal defense from his cousin, US businessman Nathan Milikowsky, but recently said he was withdrawing the request, and would instead appeal for funding from Partrich.

The committee also affirmed on Monday that money Netanyahu had already received from associates for his legal defense was improper and ordered him to return the $300,000 to Milikowsky, and to give back business attire to Partrich.

In February the Permits Committee ruled for a second time that wealthy acquaintances could not cover Netanyahu’s defense bills. It first turned him down in December.

The panel said it was inappropriate for non-Israeli benefactors to pay for the prime minister’s legal defense in a criminal case relating to his alleged receipt of gifts from wealthy benefactors in Israel and abroad.

Milikowsky and Partrich were questioned by police last year in the investigation dubbed Case 1000, in which the prime minister is suspected of receiving some NIS 1 million ($282,000) in illicit gifts from businessmen.

In February, Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, in that case, as well as in two others, which is scheduled for October. The premier faces charges of fraud and breach of trust, as well as bribery in one of the three cases.

Shapira will be replaced by Matanyahu Englman next month.

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