Netanyahu Questioned a Second Time Over 'Bibi-Tours' Affair

The draft report on the probe is slated to be submitted to Netanyahu and his attorneys before State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss ends his term on July 1.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned on Thursday by investigators of the State Comptroller's Office in connection to alleged financial improprieties over travel expenses - what has been dubbed the "Bibi-Tours" affair.

It was the second such interview of Netanyahu in two months. Sources close to the investigation said it would probably be the last time the prime minister was questioned by the investigation team, led by Nahum Levy, the state comptroller's adviser for the prosecution of public corruption.

The draft report on the probe is slated to be submitted to Netanyahu and his attorneys before State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss ends his term on July 1.

It is still not clear if the inquiry has found suggestions of criminal misconduct on Netanyahu's part. If it does, the findings will be submitted to the attorney general, who must decide whether to pursue a criminal investigation.

On Sunday, Lindenstrauss' office confirmed last week's interview but declined to give details "so as not to jeopardize the investigation."

The interview was held in Netanyahu's offices in the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. As with the investigators' February interview of the prime minister in the "Bibi-Tours" affair, neither the Prime Minister's Office nor the comptroller's office made a statement afterward.

Netanyahu reportedly answered all questions put to him and did not deny the principal findings of the investigation, which were disclosed by investigative reporter Raviv Drucker on the Channel 10 television program "Hamakor."

Drucker alleged that Netanyahu had accepted funding from private businessmen for trips for himself and his family while in public office. Drucker also reported that two different organizations had paid for a single trip taken by the Netanyahus to the United States in September 2006, in what amounted to a kind of double-billing. Drucker also said that in August 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Netanyahu, his wife Sara and one of their sons traveled to London on a trip funded by both the Knesset and Israel Bonds.

It was Drucker's expose that sparked the comptroller's investigation. Following demands by coalition parties in April of last year, Lindenstrauss also decided to look into the overseas trips made not only by Netanyahu but also by cabinet ministers and deputy ministers going back to 2006.

In the inquiry, the comptroller's office has examined hundreds of requests by ministers and deputy ministers for approval to travel abroad over the past six years. That investigation, too, is expected to wind up by next month.

In recent months the comptroller interviewed several of Netanyahu's former advisers and aides who had worked with him in the past 10 years during his terms as finance minister and opposition leader.

The aides and advisers testified how Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu's luxury trips abroad were financed, how the money was transferred and how the couple's expenses for their flights and luxury hotels were covered.

Netanyahu's attorneys also submitted receipts, invoices and other documents related to the couple's trips abroad over the past six years in a bid to prove that nothing improper was done.

In separate television interviews over the past year, both Netanyahu and his wife denied there was anything improper about the funding of their trips. They firmly denied allegations of double-billing. Netanyahu accused the media of trying to undermine him politically and of trying to harm him by targeting his wife.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.Credit: Emil Salman

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