Police Likely to Question More Netanyahu Household Staff This Week

New evidence emerges regarding spending irregularities, possible abuse of staff at the Prime Minister's Residence.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino attend a meeting on preparations for an upcoming storm, February 19, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino attend a meeting on preparations for an upcoming storm, February 19, 2015. Credit: Ilan Assayag

The Netanyahus’ former household manager was questioned for 11 hours by police on Thursday night, although officers do not believe Meni Naftali’s testimony about events at the Prime Minister’s Residence provided new evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Naftali, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, provided additional documentation regarding a number of matters. At the conclusion of the interrogation, Lahav 433 fraud investigators brought the new evidence to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

The testimony related to alleged irregularities concerning patio furniture, bottle-refund deposits, employment terms and possible abuse of staff at the Prime Minister’s Residence, which was all known to police and the attorney general.

However, the police have been investigating the new evidence regarding these affairs and are likely to summon other present and former household staff for questioning soon. Only after this will the police decide whether to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

The new evidence will be sent to the State Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday, but Weinstein is not expected to review it until the end of the week.

Meni Naftali, the former manager of the Prime Minister Residence.Credit: Moti Milrod

On Saturday night, Channel 2 reported that police are investigating whether the apparently illicit employment of electrician Avi Fahima in the Prime Minister’s Residence was, in fact, a payoff for prior debts between the Netanyahus and Fahima.

Naftali’s evidence was part of an open investigation at the fraud unit in Lod. Naftali was told his testimony was afforded some protection, but not blanket immunity. Any incriminating evidence against Naftali himself will not be used if he is the only source. He will not, however, be immune to information supplied by others against him.

Naftali was requested not to publicly divulge the contents of his testimony, in order to foil possible interactions between its subjects, who could coordinate their versions and obstruct the investigation. In his civil suit, handled by attorneys Naomi Landau and Nava Pinchuk Alexander, Naftali described a series of allegedly criminal activities, such as forging documents, in order to justify expenses that exceeded those allowed a sitting prime minister.

Naftali’s immediate superior who Naftali said instructed him to commit the actions, was Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director general of operations at the Prime Minister’s Office. Naftali had a long list of employees at the Prime Minister’s Office and Residence who were said to be accomplices or witnesses to the alleged infractions.

Naftali’s initial attempt to provide testimony to the police was rejected in September 2014. Police Maj. Gen. Ephraim Bracha told him at the time that the police were unable to investigate while State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, who was approached by Naftali first, was looking into the issue. Shapira finally issued a critical report on the Netanyahus’ expenditure last week.

Naftali turned to Bracha again after the affair of the bottle deposits surfaced on January 29. That day, it was reported that the Netanyahus had reimbursed 4,000 shekels ($1,000) to the state for bottle deposit money collected over four years, between 2009-2013. Naftali claimed the actual amount was much higher, adding that the prime minister was a witness to these events.

Earlier this month, Naftali repeatedly tried to appear before the police to testify, stating that he would demand protection against self-incrimination. Only following stubborn efforts on his part did Bracha agree to meet him.

After the examination of all the material, Naftali may be summoned again early this week, in order to complete his testimony. On Friday morning, following a long night of giving evidence that may affect the continued political career and legal standing of the prime minister, Naftali was driven by his wife to his home in Afula.

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