Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repaid Michigan businessman Spencer Partrich 25,000 shekels ($7,685) for cigars he received from him improperly – 11 months after a State Comptroller’s Office committee ordered him to do so.
Netanyahu’s attorney, Yossi Cohen, informed the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser, Shlomit Barnea-Fargo, as well as its controller, Itzik Davidian, of the repayment. As proof, Cohen attached a copy of the bank transfer from Netanyahu’s personal account to the businessman’s account.
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A month ago, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu had been ignoring Barnea-Fargo’s repeated requests to repay Partrich. In February she informed Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the state comptroller and the permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office that she gave up.
“We did the best we could and more to implement the decisions of the permits committee, but our many requests were not answered and despite the agreement," she wrote. “As a result, we must inform the honorable permits committee that we have no way to obey its directive.”
A few days later, Cohen stated on behalf of the prime minister that Netanyahu had received two suits from Partrich and they were returned to him in 2019. The statement, however, did not present evidence that the suits were returned. In another statement, Cohen said he estimates that Netanyahu had gotten 25,000 shekels’ worth of cigars from Partrich. It was the first time the Israeli authorities had been informed on the matter.
The authorities were puzzled by Cohen’s statements because the discussions held by the permits committee on the suits came after the suits were allegedly returned. “The fact that the suits had been returned was not known to the undersigned, which is why we made arguments about the suits as well,” Cohen have recently explained in a letter.
The High Court of Justice is scheduled to hear a petition by the Movement for Integrity against how the permits committee handled the items Netanyahu received from Partrich.