Minister Simhon Denies Receiving Personal Favors From Airline

Comptroller investigating complaint that airline treated agriculture minister to stays in casinos, hotels abroad.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon on Wednesday vehemently denied a complaint under investigation by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss that claims Simhon received personal favors from Cargo Airlines Ltd. (CAL), which arranged his family trips abroad in 2004-2005.

The non-profit organization, Omets, submitted a complaint to Lindenstrauss and to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz charging that the agency, which is headed by the secretary of the Moshav Movement, Eitan Ben David, granted extra favors to Simhon and his family during trips abroad and in Israel.

According to the charges, Simhon and his family were treated to stays in posh moshav hotels and taken to casinos in Europe.

"My trips were private. Nobody can forbid me from traveling with CAL or any other company. All of the trips were paid out of my private pocket, and the company did not finance even one cent of my private trips - neither mine, nor my family's. All of the receipts are in my possession."

Simhon served as environment minister under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during the first 11 months of 2005.

Simhon's office said in response that there was no basis to the complaints, and the minister is sure that the comptroller's investigation would not find any wrongdoing.