Netanyahu's Former Aide Admits Criminal Offence in Plea Deal

Ezra Saidoff, who was involved in ordering some $100,000 worth of catered meals to the Prime Minister’s Residence, is expected to pay a fine and do community service

Former deputy director general at the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff at the Jerusalem District, Israel, June 26, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Former deputy director general at the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff admitted Wednesday before a district court to three counts of receiving goods by intentionally exploiting another person’s mistake in a way that doesn’t constitute fraud.

Saidoff was involved in ordering some $100,000 worth of catered meals to the Prime Minister’s residence.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, was convicted of the same offense, and will pay the state $15,000.

Under the plea deal reached with Saidoff, the prosecution will demand that he pay a fine of 10,000 shekels and do 150 hours of community service. The court will hand down its verdict on November 17.

The amended indictment charges Saidoff with accepting, on behalf of Sara Netanyahu, her family and their friends, meals worth 175,000 shekels at the expense of the state despite the fact the Prime Minister's Residence employed a cook. That included 25,000 shekels paid for chef meals while Saidoff also tried to obtain 20,000 shekels for waiter services.

Prosecutor Jenny Avni said that the amended incitement explicitly points out that these meals were not ordered for official visitors, but for the Netanyahu family own private use. In addition, the Justice Ministry released  a statement in which the prosecution clarified that the meals had been ordered only for the family and their personal guests, and not for official guests.

Saidoff knew the expenditure rules at the Prime Minister's Residence perfectly well, and bore the responsibility for the logistical aspects of the residence, Avni said.

"Before reaching a plea deal, the court took into consideration that Saidoff had committed his offences out of dedication and devotion to Sara Netanyahu and his willingness to commit criminal crimes to please her," the judge said.    

The Justice Ministry however wrote in its statement that, "Saidoff acted in utter contradiction to the conduct expected of a civil servant, especially a senior one. Nevertheless, before signing the plea bargain, the court took into account that the defendant received nothing, and that the fruits of the crime totaling 195,000 shekels were taken by him for Sara Netanyahu."

Saidoff's lawyer Yehoshua Reznik stressed that his client hadn't received so much as a crumb in ill-gotten gains.

Saidoff was suspended from duty in November 2015 when he was questioned under caution as the investigation into the prime minister residence's irregularities was launced but his contract was extended nonetheless and he continued to be paid 30,000 shekels a month without working.

Under the plea deal, the state will not be charging Saidoff with crimes involving moral turpitude.