Israel Police Recommend Indicting Sara Netanyahu Over Irregularities at PM's Residence

Netanyahu was questioned under caution - as someone who might be charged with a crime - in December 2015 by Israel Police's Lahav 433 fraud investigation unit.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, at Ben-Gurion Airport before boarding flight to New York, September 28, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, at Ben-Gurion Airport before boarding flight to New York, September 28, 2014.Credit: Avi Ohayon, GPO

Israel Police recommended indicting Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, concerning irregularities in the running of the prime minister's households, Haaretz has learned.

Police have discovered evidentiary basis against Netanyahu in three separate affairs – and not, as could be understood from the police's Sunday statement on the matter, in one affair.

Recommended charges include aggravated fraudulent receipt on three separate counts. In one case, there's a recommendation to indict Netanyahu for ordering food and private chefs for family events at the expense of the prime minister's residence. It is suspected that private family entertainment was funded by public funds.

In another case, there's a recommendation to indict the prime minister's wife in relation to the employment of a caregiver for her father. The investigation revealed that Netanyahu paid the expenses for a live-in caregiver for her father from the budget of the prime minister's residence.

In the third case – the affair surrounding the prime minister's residences – evidentiary basis was found to indict three people: Sara Netanyahu, Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director general of the Prime Minister's Office and Avi Fahima, a former Likud Central Committee member who has been close to the prime minister for years and often did work at the Caesarea residence in the years when Netanyahu was out of office.

The police statement was unusual in that usually such statements note whether the findings are based on a suspicion that criminal offenses were committed or, alternatively, that police are recommending that indictments be filed. In the current case, the names of the three individuals who were investigated were not even mentioned.

"The national unit of the Israel Police has concluded its investigation of the Prime Minister's Residences," the statement read. "The case began in February 2015 with the approval of the attorney general and the state prosecutor and focused on a number of issues in connection to which suspicion of the commission of criminal offenses arose, including fraudulent receipt, fraud and breach of trust, including addressing mutual accusations. At the conclusion all of the purported evidence, findings and insights gathered in the police investigation were provided to the Jerusalem district prosecutor--which was involved in the investigation—for its review and decision."

The prime minister's wife was questioned under caution - as someone who might be charged with a crime - in December 2015 by Israel Police's Lahav 433 fraud investigation unit.

The probe, based on a state comptroller’s report issued February last year, along with evidence supplied by Meni Naftali, a former chief caretaker at the official residence, focused on three issues.

The Netanyahu family said in response that “the police statement did not include a recommendation to indict Mrs. Netanyahu. Contrary to reports, Mrs. Netanyahu did not commit any offense. The various claims that come up in the media will prove baseless, as did will all other claims that were raised against the Netanyahu family over the years.”

In February of last year, the state comptroller's office issued a report on expenses paid by the taxpayer at the prime minister's homes, including not only his official residence in Jerusalem but also including his personal residence in Caesarea.

Netanyahu asked Fahima to do electrical work at the house in Caesarea on weekends, contrary to policy, when Fahima's fees were higher over the weekend, the comptroller's office found. Over a three-month period, Fahima was found to have been called to come almost every weekend to do work, in addition to Yom Kippur, when it would be highly unusual to call out a service worker.

Last July, a criminal investigation was opened by the Israel Police on the matter. Two months after the investigation began, the attorney general at the time, Yehuda Weinstein, ordered Saidoff, the deputy director general for material and operational resources at the Prime Minister's Office, to be summoned for questioning under caution, meaning that he was considered a potential criminal suspect.

The comptroller's report had noted suspicions that Saidoff had hired Fahima to do work at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem and at the Netanyahu family's personal residence in Caesarea even though Fahima was active in Netanyahu's Likud party and after Saidoff had been asked not to make use of Fahima's services. For his part, Saidoff presented an affidavit to the police and the attorney general denying any wrongdoing, saying that he used Fahima to save money. Nevertheless, Attorney General Weinstein then ordered the opening of a criminal investigation.

In December, Sara Netanyahu was questioned by the police about Fahima's work at her Caesarea home and regarding garden furniture and other equipment purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem but that was allegedly moved to the Caesarea home.

The comptroller's report also alleged that staff from the Prime Minister's Office covered personal expenses of the prime minister and were not reimbursed. The report also indicated that during a certain period, expenses on food and entertainment at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem more than doubled.

In a related development, on Sunday the registrar of the National Labor Court ruled that, since Sara Netanyahu was not a party to a case filed in the court by Meni Naftali, the former caretaker at the Prime Minister's Residence, she had no right to appeal its judgment. Six days ago, the court rejected Netanyahu's appeal of the decision not to disqualify Judge Dita Pruginin, who ruled in favor of Naftali and is set to rule on the case of Guy Elihau, a former maintenance man at the prime minister's residence. Netanyahu was ordered to pay 4,000 shekels in costs in that proceeding.

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