Prosecution Working Two Sides of Bench in Netanyahu Spending Affair

Ezra Seidoff, a deputy director general in the Prime Minister’s Office, is to be questioned by the same prosecutor's office that represents him.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
Ezra Seidoff in court in May 2015.
Ezra Seidoff in court in May 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoutssi
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Ezra Seidoff, a deputy director general in the Prime Minister’s Office, is to be questioned under caution soon in the criminal investigation into spending at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

The summons presents the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office handling the investigation with a problem: The same prosecutor’s office is representing Seidoff, the highest-ranking suspect in the affair, in the civil suit against Seidoff (and Netanyahu) filed by Meni Naftali, the residence’s former caretaker. Seidoff’s version of events is at the heart of the defense in the civil suit.

The Jerusalem district prosecutor for criminal cases, Nurit Litman, recently brought up the issue with Cochavit Dolev-Netzach, the prosecutor for civil cases, who is representing the PMO and Seidoff in the suit. The issue is expected to be brought to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

According to the prosecution there is no problem. “In general, a civil suit that is being heard in labor court does not deal with matters under police investigation. Thus, the case is being handled like any other,” the prosecution said in a statement.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein last month announced a criminal investigation over irregularities at the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence.

The investigation came about following a report by the state comptroller, and materials not included in that report that the comptroller gave to the attorney general, which revealed that private expenses at the residence were allegedly being defrayed with public money.

Central to the investigation is also an allegation that Avi Fahima, an electrician who is a member of the Likud Central Committee, was hired to work at the prime minister’s home in Caesarea despite an explicit prohibition on employing him that was issued by a committee headed by the PMO’s legal adviser.

Only PMO employees are permitted to work at the prime minister’s homes.

Seidoff authodized Fahima’s employment, claiming that urgent electrical repairs were needed at the Caesarea home after hours and on weekends.

Fahima’s employment was approved on condition that there be no connection between him and the Netanyahus. The comptroller discovered that a company associated with Fahima had won a tender for electrical work issued by the PMO and tailored expressly for it. The company charged the PMO excessive prices for carrying out frequent emergency electrical repairs. These occurred mainly on weekends in 2009, as well as on Yom Kippur, and it is still unclear what the problems were or whether the repairs were actually made.

Fahima was always called in by the secretary to the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, on her behalf.

Sara Netanyahu could be called in to make a statement after Seidoff is questioned.

The comptroller’s report raised the suspicion that the Netanyahu family owed a past debt to Fahima, although the comptroller’s office was unable to confirm this.

In May of this year, Seidoff was called in to testify that no promise was made to Naftali that he would gain tenure as a civil servant, as a witness for for the defense in Naftali’s suit against the state.

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