Business in Brief


Comptroller launching probe into officials' expenses over Netanyahu's in-flight bed

In the wake of the public criticism over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spending of taxpayers' money, Israel's state comptroller is launching a probe into public officials' expenses that are covered by the state. Judge Yosef Shapira decided to open the investigation following requests from MKs, including MK Eitan Cabel (Labor ). Last month, Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu spent $127,000 of taxpayers money on installing a "resting chamber" on his flight to London for for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral. Another recent report revealed that spending at the Prime Minister's Residence is up 73% since Netanyahu took office four years ago. (Revital Hovel and Zvi Zrahiya )

Fraud allegations against Peruvian ex-president involve Ampal board member

Authorities are expected to interrogate former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo regarding allegations of money laundering and fraud. Peruvian-Israeli businessman Sabih Saylan, a board member at Yossi Maiman's companies Ampal and Merhav, is allegedly tied to the affair. Toledo is accused of fraudulently buying a $4 million house in Lima using money from his mother-in-law, 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Eva Fernenburg. When the purchase was revealed in January, Toledo said that his mother-in-law had paid for the house using inheritance money and Germany reparation payments. But on Sunday, the BBC program "Panorama" ran a report alleging that Fernenburg had received the money via two shell companies registered in Costa Rica and Panama. According to the Wall Street Journal, Saylan is tied to these companies. Toledo denied the accusations yesterday, telling Peruvian media he was not involved in the real estate transactions, though he maintained that the transactions were legitimate. (Haaretz Staff and Agencies)

Report: Lapid not backing Flug for top bank post

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer's deputy Karnit Flug asked Finance Minister Yair Lapid to support her in her bid to succeed Fischer, but the finance minister reportedly declined to promise to do so. Flug recently initiated a meeting with Lapid; the two sides did not publicize its having taken place. Flug has the backing of her boss, Fischer, who has spoken positively about her to the media on several occasions, and has also promoted her while speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Lapid. Fischer is due to leave the post at the end of June. Lapid's bureau declined to comment on the matter, while the Bank of Israel denied the report, stating that the two had never discussed Flug's potential candidacy during their meeting. (Moti Bassok )

Bank of Israel panel split on interest rate

The Bank of Israel's monetary committee split right down the middle for the first time since its establishment in the meeting held early last week to decide on lowering the lending rate. Three members were in favor of dropping the rate by 0.5%, from 1.75% to 1.25%, but were overruled by the other three, including governor Stanley Fischer, who preferred a more moderate 0.25% decrease to 1.5%. The Bank of Israel governor's vote, by law, counts for double in case of a tie. The three who advocated a sharper decline cited developments in the foreign exchange market. The prevailing side, however, said the smaller rate cut along with the central bank's new program for buying up foreign currency would keep the situation in check until the next meeting on the rate next Monday. (Moti Bassok )

IAA funding staff junket to NY or Moscow

One quarter of the women working at the Israel Airport Authority, 95 in all, will enjoy a jaunt to either Russia or the U.S. next month courtesy of management and the union. Two groups of 30 employees each will visit Moscow for five days while a group of 35 will spend eight days in New York. The trips are one of the perks of the job enshrined in their collective labor agreement. Each participant will need to shell out NIS 2,300 (Moscow ) or NIS 2,560 (New York ). The rest is covered. (Zohar Blumenkrantz )

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