Ahead of state report on spending, investigators to look at whether statute of limitations on ‘Bibitours’ double billing case has expired

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane to go on an official state visit to Poland, on June 12, 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO /Flash 90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane to go on an official state visit to Poland, on June 12, 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO /Flash 90


Police are looking into potentially reopening an investigation into suspected financial misconduct by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report Monday, a day before the state watchdog is set to issue a damning report on a similar issue.

Investigators are seeking to determine whether there were grounds to reopen a full criminal investigation into alleged irregularities by Netanyahu while he was serving as finance minister between 2003-2005, the Channel 2 report said.

The complicated affair, dubbed “Bibitours” by the Hebrew press, centered on allegations that Netanyahu had double billed travel expenses while serving as a member of Knesset and minister in prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government.

It remained unclear whether the 10-year statue of limitations on the case would prevent reopening it, or whether the fact that the investigation was ongoing during that period meant police could.

Police would neither confirm nor deny the report.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the report saying that Netanyahu didn’t double bill the trips and that “the attorney general checked the issue and arrived at the conclusion that there was no reason to open an investigation based on the information that he was aware of in 2013,” Channel 2 reported.

On Tuesday, the State Comptroller is set to release a report that will include a section on travel expenses billed to the state by Netanyahu.

Last year the High Court of Justice said state prosecutors mishandled the Bibitours case, forcing it to be closed.

The three-year investigation afforded Netanyahu preferential treatment because of the “public and institutional implications involving the investigation of the prime minister,” the report said.

The allegations, first published by Channel 10 in 2011, related to several trips to London and the United States that Netanyahu took with family in 2006, when he was opposition chief. He was suspected of billing more than one organization for the same trip and of using private jets without clearing it with the Knesset Ethics Committee.

When questioned, Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron said the Knesset had paid for a flight to London and that Israel Bonds had financed his wife’s travel expenses but had mistakenly attributed the receipt to the Likud leader. He also claimed that two invoices issued for a single trip to New York were provided by a single organization, which had mistakenly issued one invoice under another name.

In September, the state decided to not pursue a criminal investigation against Netanyahu over the allegations, effectively closing the lengthy probe.

The High Court’s statement regarding the handling of the case came after a group of petitioners, led by Labor Party MK Mickey Rosenthal, petitioned the court to release its account of the probe.

“The [prosecution’s] approach was intended to thwart, in most cases, the possibility of conducting a criminal investigation,” the petition charged.

The petitioners also demanded to know why Shimron, and not the prime minister, was questioned in the affair, and why the investigation took three years.

The suit had been thrown out by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in part due to the length of time that had elapsed since the alleged misconduct.

The State Attorney’s Office rejected the findings of the High Court report over the weekend, countering that the decision to not prosecute Netanyahu was apolitical and that there was no necessity to question the prime minister himself.

As reported by The Times of Israel