A senior official from the Prime Minister’s Office will be questioned by the police on Sunday about suspected irregularities in the management of the prime minister’s residences.
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Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director for operations, is a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
Sunday’s interrogation, under caution, will focus on Saidoff’s employment of electrician Avi Fahima to perform work at Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea, even though he had been instructed not to use Fahima because the latter used to be an influential activist in Netanyahu’s Likud party. This instruction was issued by a committee chaired by the PMO’s legal adviser.
Saidoff previously gave an affidavit about the suspicions against him to both the police and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. In it, he denied all allegations and said everything he did was aimed at reducing maintenance expenditure for the prime minister’s two residences.
But after examining both the affidavit and the police findings, about a month ago Weinstein ordered officers to launch a criminal investigation into the case and question the suspects under caution. Saidoff is currently the main suspect, and also the highest-ranking one.
Police questioned Fahima last month, mainly to determine whether his records of the hours he worked corresponded with Saidoff’s records. Saidoff’s records show that Fahima frequently worked on Shabbat and holidays, and was paid accordingly.
The police probe was sparked by a state comptroller’s report last February on spending at the prime minister’s residences, as well as material collected by the comptroller that wasn’t included in the report but was given to Weinstein. The comptroller’s findings raised suspicions that the government was financing personal expenditure of the Netanyahus.
The work done by Fahima, a former member of Likud’s central committee, is the heart of the case. Saidoff said he hired Fahima to do urgent repairs on the Caesarea home on weekends or after hours, when the regular maintenance staff at the PMO wasn’t available. But in the past, work on the prime minister’s residences was done exclusively by PMO employees.
The criminal investigation is also relevant to a lawsuit against the PMO and Netanyahu filed by Meni Naftali, the former caretaker of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. Saidoff’s version of events is central to the state’s defense.