Netanyahu's Former Chief of Staff Likely to Face Fraud Charges, Source Says

Charges against Ari Harow, if they're pressed, are for fraud and breach of trust over alleged fictitious sale of consulting firm.

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Ari Harow at a police station, July 2016.
Ari Harow at a police station, July 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

The police investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, is almost finished, and he will probably be indicted, a source involved in the investigation said Monday.

Police have been investigating Harow on suspicion that his sale of his consulting company was fictitious. The source said the case is “serious and backed by evidence,” and will apparently be transferred to the prosecution for a decision on whether to indict within two to three weeks.

The likely charges are fraud and breach of trust. If prosecutors do decide to charge him, they will first grant him a hearing at which he can try to change their mind.

Police questioned Harow for the first time in December 2015, but the probe was then delayed by various obstacles, including a claim that Harow’s relationship with another person involved in the case, whose name is under a gag order, was protected by attorney-client privilege. This claim was finally rejected several weeks ago, enabling police to start employing additional methods of investigation that they had previously refrained from using.

A few months after Harow’s arrest, while searching his belongings, investigators chanced on a recording of Netanyahu talking with Arnon (Noni) Mozes, publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. That tape is now the center of a criminal investigation against Netanyahu, in which the prime minister has already been questioned as a suspect.

Sources in the Justice Ministry said one reason the decision to launch the investigation of Netanyahu was delayed was that senior ministry officials held numerous discussions over how this explosive tape could best be used.

In November, police questioned Harow again. At the time, they claimed this interrogation had nothing to do with the case against Netanyahu, but related solely to the case against Harow himself. Harow’s attorney, Roy Blecher, declined to respond to Haaretz’s query about whether police also took advantage of that interrogation to ask Harow about the contents of the tape and the circumstances under which it was recorded.

The U.S.-born Harow was appointed Netanyahu’s bureau chief in February 2009.

Harow resigned in March 2010 and started a business development and consulting firm, 3H Global. Thus in September 2013, when he reentered public service as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, he was required to sign a conflict of interests agreement in which he promised to several all 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 that agreement.

Harow subsequently gave Shlomit Barnea Farago, the legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, a copy of the agreement under which he sold 3H Global to a foreign company that was established in January 2014 and headquartered on Manhattan’s Third Avenue. The person who signed the agreement on the foreign company’s behalf was Victor Deutsch, and the company’s name, VJD Holdings, derived from his initials.

But Haaretz later discovered that the purchasing company’s address was actually occupied by a medical clinic of the same name.

Moreover, the amount Harow received for the sale seemed excessive: 3H Global was only three or four years old and hadn’t developed any exceptional name recognition, yet it was sold for $3 million. The money was supposed to be paid in 12 installments of $250,000 each, starting in April 2014 and ending in January 2017.

As required by law, Harow appointed a trustee whose job was to report to the Prime Minister’s Office on implementation of the agreement. The trustee, an accountant, reported that Harow did receive two or three payments, but they didn’t match the amount specified in the contract. This aroused suspicions that the sale was fictitious, and that Harow was actually continuing to run the company even while serving as Netanyahu’s chief of staff.

In July, when Haaretz first reported on the suspicions against Harow, Blecher responded, “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.”

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