Police sources say they expect to be asked to launch an investigation of allegedly improper handling of expenditures at the prime minister’s residence, as a result of findings by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira. The findings have been provided to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, but at a meeting with police brass, Weinstein said for the time being he would not order a probe of the matter, although he didn’t rule out launching a police investigation or a less formal examination of the case in the near future.
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The meeting was not convened to discuss the case involving the prime minister’s residence, which has centered on allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, had pocketed deposit refunds on bottles paid for by the residence. The subject did come up on an informal basis in the meeting, however. The allegations include the contention by a former employee at the residence that the Netanyahus issued a refund check for the bottle deposit funds, but it was not for the full amount that Sara Netanyahu had initially received.
The former maintenance supervisor at the residence, Meni Naftali, who is now suing the Netanyahus over the terms of his employment, recently contacted the Israel Police’s serious crime unit at his own initiative, offering his testimony over conduct at the residence. The police, however, have taken pains to note that the Lahav 433 serious crime unit had not launched any kind of examination into the case.
On Sunday, Weinstein convened a meeting for the first time on the conduct at the prime minister’s residence, including the bottle deposit issue, which was first reported by Haaretz. Earlier this week, Shapira announced that he would release his report on the case in another two weeks, on February 17, exactly a month before the March 17 Knesset election. Shapira’s announcement also made reference to material gathered by the his office in connection with the case “which raises concern regarding harm to ethical standards, going as far as concern over criminal conduct.”
On Saturday night, Likud spokesman Nir Hefetz confirmed that the Netanyahu family returned 4,000 shekels (about $1,000) to the state’s coffers in deposit refunds. In an interview with Channel 2, Hefetz did not provide detailed answers on the issue. “I’m not an expert on all the technicalities of how things worked,” he said. “I think most citizens watching us are tired with the onslaught on Mrs. Netanyahu.”
When asked why the prime minister’s residence had bought 150,000 shekels worth of alcohol over 19 months during Netanyahu’s previous term, Hefetz said “these numbers are a complete fabrication.”
At Monday’s meeting with senior police officials, the attorney general and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan were given an overview of a range of matters, particularly the most sensitive among them. It was at the meeting that Weinstein was said to have approached several of those present and talked to them about the bottle deposit case involving the prime minister’s wife and about the findings that he had received from Shapira on the matter.
Weinstein is understood to have said that the report was disturbing and would in all probability be referred to the Lahav 433 police unit. For his part, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said on Tuesday: “I understand that the material has been transferred to the attorney general, and the person who needs to decide whether there will be an investigation here is the attorney general. We have proven that we know how to deal with any investigation, as sensitive as it may be.”