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Israel auditor demands probe into Netanyahu corruption claims

State auditor calls on attorney general to looking into alleged criminal activity surrounding PM's trips aboard while opposition leader
Netanyahu's office said: "“There was nothing, there will be nothing - because there is nothing" (AFP)

Israel’s top auditor has called on the country’s attorney general to investigate allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Friday.

In a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, State Comptoller Joseph Shapira said his office had uncovered suspected criminal acts involving the financing of Netanyahu’s trips abroad while he was the leader of the opposition.

Shapira wrote to Mendelblit in the past few weeks after learning that Mendelblit had decided against ordering an investigation into Netanyahu and his financiers, Haaretz said.

Shapira last year sent material to Mendelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, which he said raised concerns that Netanyahu had received double payments for trips and had diverted funds or used cash. Netanyahu’s family were also alleged to have used El Al air miles which belonged to the government.

Weinstein subsequently ordered police to look into the material to see if any crime had been committed.

But Mendelblit, after taking office in February, decided not to launch an intensive investigation because there was deemed to be no evidence of serious fraud.

The Comptroller’s Office’s investigations into Netanyahu date back to the so-called “Bibi-Tours” affair in 2011 in which Netanyahu was alleged to have violated laws that forbid accepting gifts and benefits following a Haaretz investigation.

But that investigation was frozen and delayed in 2013 pending the completion of a separate police investigation concerning expensive gifts allegedly given to members of Netanyahu’s family by wealthy individuals.

In his letter to Mendelblit, Shapira said his office had found suspicions of criminal acts in matters including the diversion of funds, the alleged use of surplus funds to pay for personal expenses, the use of cash to pay for trips and suspicions of intentional deceptive documentation of funds.

He also called on Mendelblit to investigate the relationships between Netanyahu and those who had funded his trips.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu’s office told Haaretz the allegations were “all nonsense”.

“There was nothing, there will be nothing - because there is nothing,” the spokesperson said.