Katsav Complains to State Over Denied Luxury Car, Office

Former president Moshe Katsav filed a complaint to the state comptroller yesterday against Accountant General Shuki Oren's decision to deny him a luxury car and a high-priced office.

Katsav had requested an Audi A-6 and an office in Tel Aviv's prestigious Azrieli Towers.

Instead, Oren ordered him to make do with his current government car, a Volvo, and gave him a choice between renting a less expensive office or being given an office in a government building in Tel Aviv.

As a former president, Katsav is entitled to a government car and office despite having allegedly sexually assaulted female employees. By law, he would lose these perks only if convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. But Katsav withdrew from a signed plea bargain, and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has yet to file an alternative indictment.

Oren therefore also ruled that any rental contract must be breakable on short notice, so that the state could get out of it should Katsav be convicted.

The State Comptroller's Office confirmed receipt of Katsav's complaint and said it is studying it. The Finance Ministry said that Oren was acting in accordance with the law and Mazuz's orders, and that it would give the comptroller all relevant documents.

Katsav's demand for a high-priced car and office have sparked criticism in the Knesset, on the grounds that these perks - worth up to NIS 1.175 million a year - are meant to enable former presidents to maintain contact with the public, and the public is unlikely to want to see much of a man accused of sex crimes.

"There's no limit to Katsav's chutzpah and effrontery," fumed Knesset Ethics Committee Chairman Haim Oron (Meretz). "The fact that Katsav, after withdrawing from a plea bargain, is walking around as if he were completely innocent is a scandal."