Haaretz has obtained details and documents that shed light on suspicions surrounding the sale of a company founded by a former chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ari Harow.
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Harow resigned from his post in January 2015, and in recent months has suffered allegations that the sale of his consulting firm was actually fictitious. The sale price was stated as $3 million, but he allegedly did not receive the entire sum.
In December, Harow was placed under house arrest for five days. The police will soon decide whether to recommend an indictment.
U.S.-born Harow once headed American Friends of Likud, which has funded trips abroad by Netanyahu and his family. Harow has also raised funds for Netanyahu and served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief from February 2009 to March 2010.
It was in March 2010, after leaving that position, that Harow set up a private consulting and business development firm called 3H Global.
In September 2013, before returning to the Prime Minister’s Office as chief of staff, Harow pledged to sever his ties with the company. “I will not be involved at all in running it, and it will continue to operate under my business partners and my two brothers,” he wrote in the conflict of interest agreement he signed.
According to corporate documents Harow filed, 3H Global engaged in political consulting and business development. Its clients included the president of Paraguay, the city of Modi’in, the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem and two American nonprofit organizations.
One of those organizations encourages Israelis with American citizenship to vote in U.S. elections for pro-Israel candidates, while hinting that Republican candidates are best for this purpose. The leaders of this organization include a former spokesman for American-Jewish tycoon Ronald Lauder. The other organization is made up of former Western political leaders who work to combat the delegitimization of Israel.
In Israel’s 2013 general election, Harow reported, his company provided services to Likud. He noted that he himself had contributed to the primary campaigns of two Likud politicians, Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan.
He also showed Shlomit Barnea-Farago, the legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office, an agreement he had made to sell his shares in 3H Global to a foreign company – VJD Holdings LLC based in Manhattan. The agreement was signed in January 2014 on behalf of the buyer by a man named Victor Deutsch. The company’s name derives from Deutsch’s initials.
Haaretz has learned that a clinic now occupies the Third Avenue address where the purchasing company was located, run by a doctor named Victor Deutsch.
Moreover, the sale price raises questions. Though Harow’s company was only three or four years old and was not a big-time name, it was sold for $3 million in 12 payments of $250,000 each, which were supposed to be made from April 2014 to January 2017.
As mandated by law, a trustee was appointed – an accountant tasked with reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office on the conflict of interest agreement’s implementation. But the trustee’s reports on the payments made to Harow did not conform with the terms of the contract submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office. This raised suspicions that perhaps the sale was fictitious, and that Harow was continuing to run the company while exploiting his senior government position.
It was this discrepancy that led Barnea-Farago to begin investigating the matter. She sent her findings to the Justice Ministry, where they were examined by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber. This is apparently what led to the opening of the police investigation.
In January 2015, Harow announced that he was resigning from his job at the Prime Minister’s Office to work on Netanyahu’s reelection campaign before the March election.
In the conflict of interest agreement, Harow wrote that when he was not a civil servant he also maintained “friendly ties with the prime minister and other officials in the bureau.” The ties, he wrote “amounted to occasional meetings and phone calls.”
He also noted that the civil service commissioner’s office had asked him questions on the so-called Bibi Tours affair regarding alleged improper funding of flights abroad by Netanyahu and his family when Netanyahu was finance minister from 2003 to 2005.
According to Harow’s attorney, Roy Blecher, “Mr. Harow indeed sold his shares in 3H. The sale was completely genuine. After he had received several payments for his shares, which didn’t reflect the agreed price, the deal was canceled. We hope and believe that at the end of the investigation, it will become clear that Mr. Harow’s conduct was unblemished.”
Several cases of criminal suspicions involving people close to the prime minister have been occupying Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in recent weeks. The most recent probe touching on Netanyahu involves the transfer of money abroad for various purposes.
The police work in this case is being overseen by the Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office, under attorney Nurit Litman, who was also the prosecutor in the case against a former cabinet member, Shlomo Benizri.
Sources familiar with these cases said that barring any unexpected developments, an undercover probe involving financial transfers from overseas will probably go public very soon.
“These things have their own dynamic, so it could take days or weeks,” a law enforcement source told Haaretz.
Once this probe goes public, the scope of the suspicions and the identity of the suspects will be revealed. At that point, it will also be clear whether Mendelblit was justified in refusing to make the probe public a few weeks ago, on the grounds that doing so might sabotage the investigation.