Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said Thursday he had ordered a preliminary investigation into alleged fiscal misconduct at the private and state residences of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, reports AFP.
The announcement follows a scathing report by the State Comptroller, but Weinstein noted the probe will begin only after the March 17 elections, and stressed Netanyahu himself is not suspected of involvement in the misdemeanors.
The report, released last week, found, among other things, that the Prime Minister's Residence expenses went from 1.86 million shekels in 2009 to 2.4 million shekels in 2010, inflating further to 3.11 million in 2011. This ballooning trend stopped in 2012 when the expenses fells to 2.86 million shekels, and further to 2.41 million shekels in 2013.
The findings, dealing with the official Jerusalem residence and Netanyahu's private Ceasarea home, as well as the testimonies of a former employee at the residence, raised only mild suspicions, a statement from Weinstein's office read.
"But the state attorney's office believes that the variety of affairs justifies a probe, at the end of which it will be decided whether to launch a criminal investigation," it said.
The alleged misconduct at the residences of Netanyahu, who is campaigning for re-election next month, included mishandling of funds from recycled bottles by Netanyahu's wife Sara, as well as the purchase of garden furniture for the weekend residence in Caesarea.
The report also insinuated public fund misconduct in the employment of an electrician for the Caesarea home on weekends and holidays.
Weinstein noted the importance of cautious conduct in the weeks leading up to elections.
"One must note that in the material accumulated to this point, there is no evidence that raises the suspicion of involvement of the prime minister himself in the said deeds," the statement read.
The Likud responded to last week’s findings by blaming the increase in 2010 and 2011 on Menny Naftali, the former housekeeper in the Prime Minister’s Residence who is suing Binyamin and Sara Netanyahu for alleged abuse.
Naftali followed suit by holding a press conference with his attorney in which both denied that the Likud’s statements were true.