State Comptroller Joseph Shapira launched an investigation Monday into a secret trip to Vienna made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ten days ago.
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Haaretz revealed on Tuesday that Lieberman had held “sensitive diplomatic meetings” during a secret trip in Vienna the previous weekend. During that trip, the foreign minister also met with an Austrian businessman who had long been wanted for questioning by the Israel Police on corruption charges, Lieberman’s office confirmed last Monday, and his close friend and ally, Milorad Dodik, a Serbian nationalist and separatist who currently serves as president of Republika Srpska – one of the semiautonomous regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The trip had been kept secret from most of the ministry’s high-ranking officials, and took the Austrian Foreign Ministry by surprise as well.
Shapira opened the investigation at the request of Labor Party MK Shelly Yacimovich. Last week, after the report in Haaretz, Yacimovich called on the state comptroller to investigate whether Lieberman used taxpayers' money to pay for a private trip, and why the visit was hidden from all senior foreign ministry officials.
This morning, Shapira sent a letter to Lieberman's office in which he sought clarification about the secret trip. "My office has received a complaint from MK Shelly Yacimovich regarding your trip to Vienna 10 days ago," wrote Shapira in his letter to the foreign minister. "In order to investigate her complaint, I would ask, first of all, for your response to her claims. Furthermore, I ask that you send me your itinerary for your trip to Austria and other countries that were included in this trip, including a detailed schedule of your meetings."
Last week, MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) also wrote a letter to Weinstein urging him to investigate the trip, saying that if the comptroller finds Lieberman's visit was mostly for private purposes, he should force the foreign minister to pay back the costs of the trip "and look into the possibility of trying him for using state funds for his private needs."
Lieberman's bureau said in response to this report: "The first phone call the foreign minister made upon his return from the United States on Friday was to the state comptroller, to request he check [the minister's] diplomatic visit to Vienna and in doing so prevent populist remarks by people who have no understanding whatsoever about foreign policy – or anything at all – like Yacimovich."