State Comptroller Joseph Shapira announced Monday that he would release the report on the seemingly excessive expenditures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residences in two weeks, on February 17.
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Shapira said that he informed Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein of the decision after transferring the materials "gathered by the state comptroller's office pertaining to the prime minister's residence, which raise concern of compromised integrity or possible criminal activity."
The report will be released exactly one month before the Knesset election.
Haaretz reported Friday that the comptroller had been delaying the release of the report after Netanyahu's attorney request he withhold its publication until after elections.
A source familiar with the report said its publication before Election Day could damage Netanyahu’s image.
About 18 months ago, after receiving complaints on the matter, Shapira announced he would look into the allegations of excessive spending. The complaints related to both the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and the state-funded portion of expenses at the Netanyahu family’s private homes in Caesarea and Jerusalem.
The report was recently completed and Shapira has already received Netanyahu’s response, so there’s seemingly no reason why it couldn’t be published. Nevertheless, Shapira hasn’t done so.
Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, recently asked the comptroller not to publish the report until after the election. Shimron also asked Shapira to delay publication of another report – popularly known as the Bibi-Tours report – which dealt with overseas trips by Netanyahu and his wife that were paid for by wealthy businesspeople or nongovernmental organizations during the years when Netanyahu was finance minister in Ariel Sharon’s government.
The report on expenditures at the prime minister’s residences looked into several seemingly unjustified outlays of taxpayer funds at the official residence, including hundreds of thousands of shekels for buying meals from restaurants, tens of thousands of shekels for flower arrangements, thousands of shekels for scented candles and large expenditures on hairdressers and shoes. The report also examined the use of state funds for various purposes in Netanyahu’s private residences.
Netanyahu's office said Monday night that it would respond to the report on the expenditures once it has been released – "and when all is proven to have been legal." Netanyahu's office called the allegations lodged by former residence caretaker Mani Naftali, which are not included in the comptroller's report, "lies and defamation" and the work of a "person trying to take money from the state coffers and to spread unsubstantiated lies against the prime minister and his wife."