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Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Bank of Israel Governor-designate Jacob Frenkel
Photo: Flash 90
AG to decide on Frenkel theft claims
In addition to inquiry into allegations that Bank of Israel governor-designate was detained at Hong Kong airport in 2006 in possession of perfume bottles he failed to pay for, attorney general to check why he gave two different versions of incident
The question marks over the 2006 incident involving Bank of Israel Governor-designate Prof. Jacob Frenkel are multiplying.

 

The inquiry into the allegations that Frenkel was detained at the Hong Kong airport in possession of perfume bottles he failed to pay for has been handed over to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, as the Turkel Committee on senior civil service appointments does not have the tools to examine and check facts.

 

Weinstein is expected to look into the 2006 incident and Frenkel's failure to mention it to the committee when it was discussing his appointment, as well as into questions in regards to two different versions provided by Frenkel – one in 2006 and one after the affair made headlines again recently.

 

At the time, Frenkel denied that the affair involved theft allegations, claiming that he was stopped for passing through an area for senior government officials, which he was unauthorized to use. In recent days he claimed he had been suspected of stealing a perfume bottle from the airport's Duty Free, but that the inquiry had ended in nothing and that the Hong Kong authorities had apologized to him.

 

The double versions issue has to do with ethical standards and may affect a person's credibility – a trait which cannot be compromised when it comes to the position of the central bank governor. The question is: Is Weinstein authorized to decide on morality and ethical standards?

 

Will AG turn to PM or to committee?

Meanwhile, it appears that some of the reported details of the incident were inaccurate. A source involved in the committee told Calcalist that the product Frenkel allegedly took from the Duty Free was not perfume.

 

Another fact is that journalist Amir Oren informed Jacob Turkel of the incident last Sunday. Weinstein learned of it only two days later. But Turkel failed to update the committee members, who learned of the incident only after it was reported in the media on Friday.

 

Now that the decision is in the hands of the attorney general, it is unclear whether Weinstein is "working" for the Turkel Committee and must submit his findings to its members who will make a final decision on the matter, or whether he can take the findings directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid and voice his opinion to them.

 

In any event, if Weinstein reaches the conclusion that the appointment should be disqualified, he could go to Netanyahu, Lapid and Frenkel himself and recommend a respectable manner for Frenkel to step away.

 

Weinstein could also put the facts on the Turkel Committee's table, as well as his final conclusion on Frenkel's suitability for the position in terms of ethical standards.

 

Waiting for Frenkel to return to Israel

Earlier this week, the attorney general met with senior officials at the State Prosecutor's Office to hear their opinions on the Hong Kong incident before making up his mind.

 

The Justice Ministry is not expected to complete its inquiry into the affair before Frenkel returns to Israel. Ministry officials are inclined not to make a decision before directly questioning the central bank chief-designate, and have no intention of settling for a video conference or transatlantic conversation.

 

The Turkel Committee, meanwhile, continued its discussions on the matter and questioned Frenkel in a phone conversation earlier this week.

 

The Justice Ministry offered the following statement in response: "The attorney general and his team are looking into the facts and different details at the request of the Turkel Committee and in cooperation with its members. After clarifying the facts, the attorney general will form his legal stand and hand the findings over to the Turkel Committee."

 

 

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