Who owns bank account number 831-33748-14-719, into which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu transferred $145,000 in 2002? It’s a good question – one that the prime minister refuses to answer.
Journalist Uri Blau published data about the transaction on his blog on Monday, including a letter sent by Netanyahu on February 3, 2002, when he wasn’t in office, that read "Dear Matthew, please forward to Lehman Brothers in New York the sum of $145,000 from my account at the Royal Bank of Scotland." The recipient of the funds? Unknown.
Blau wrote that "reports from the Swiss leaks continue to uncover tax shelters and other bank accounts. It’s important to remember that Netanyahu also had an account in a tax shelter. Documents pertaining to this account are being revealed here for the first time.
"Last year, journalist Lilach Weissman revealed in Globes that between the years 1998 and 2003, Netanyahu held an account at the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, which are a reputed tax shelter. For most of that period, Netanyahu was not active in politics, though he began to serve as foreign minister in late 2002. According to Weissman, Netanyahu used this account to make the following transfers: $2,468.45 to the law firm E. S. Shimron, I. Molho, Persky & Co.; $8,000 to Col. (Res.) Yehoar Gal who served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff in 2000; and $1,800 to Aviv Bushinsky, Netanyahu’s former spokesperson.
"The largest sum transferred from Netanyahu’s account," wrote Blau, "was sent to an unknown recipient. On February 3, 2002, Netanyahu asked "Matthew" from RBS to send $145,000 from his account to an individual at the Lehman Brothers bank in New York, identified only by an account number.
"A few months after this transfer, Netanyahu returned to politics. In June 2003, as Israel’s finance minister, he traveled to New York where he met with Lehman Brothers management," wrote Blau.
Blau noted that the recipient is identified only by an account number, which is a practice that is now illegal in most of the world, and meant to conceal one’s identity.
Blau approached the Prime Minister’s Office with a request to know the recipient of the transfer, as well as the reason the funds were sent. The PMO responded by saying that "in 2002, Netanyahu was a private citizen. All of his actions were legal, and he does not need to provide explanations about his private acts."