Ex-Netanyahu chief of staff grilled for second time on fraud suspicions
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Ex-Netanyahu chief of staff grilled for second time on fraud suspicions

Ari Harow was detained last week upon landing at Ben Gurion airport, questioned under caution for 14 hours, and sent to house arrest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow, left, and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner, right, as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and fundraiser was summoned for a second interrogation by police on Monday on suspicions of fraud.

There were no details about the interrogation of Ari Harow, the latest chapter in a case which has embroiled Netanyahu but has mostly been kept under wraps.

After an early-morning detention by police upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on Thursday, Ari Harow was questioned under caution by the Israel Police’s high-profile anti-fraud unit for over 14 hours Thursday before being released to house arrest.

Channel 2 television reported Friday evening that Netanyahu and members of his family are likely to be interrogated under caution by police as they probe corruption allegations against the prime minister.

According to the report, Harow did not take advantage of his right to remain silent on Thursday and cooperated with the police. An employee working at the Prime Minister’s Office was also interrogated last week.

Under the current police assessment, if incriminating material against Harow is found, he may be offered a deal to turn state’s witness and testify against Netanyahu.

Allegations of corruption involving Netanyahu have still not ripened into a full-blown investigation directly against him, and police are defining the current procedure as a “probe.”

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Harow was originally held on Thursday to give testimony over a probe into suspicions surrounding Netanyahu’s campaign fundraising abroad, but investigators later decided to interrogate him under caution, signaling that he is being treated as a suspect.

An interrogation under caution usually indicates that the person in the hot seat is considered a possible suspect and may face prosecution. Police said Harow was questioned over suspicions of fraud as part of another probe they are carrying out. Harow, who holds dual US-Israeli citizenship, will be kept under house arrest for five days.

Last Sunday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit acknowledged that he had ordered a preliminary probe into allegations leveled at Netanyahu, but rejected as “inaccurate” media reports about the nature of the suspicions.

Mandelblit, who was previously Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, on Monday told the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee that Netanyahu has not been apprised of any details about the preliminary probe.

“I sit with the prime minister in meetings, and on the other hand I am carrying out a probe against him, but we don’t talk about the probe,” he said. “You must trust us that we know to distinguish.”

“There is some confusion between an examination and an investigation,” he said. “When there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime, I am required to move to an investigation. On the other hand, we need to be very careful, there are serious implications when you are talking about a minister or the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, confers with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, confers with then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to reports, the attorney general is examining suspicions of money laundering involving the prime minister and an unnamed senior Justice Ministry official, among others. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and predicted the probe would be closed with no charges filed.

The Los Angeles-born Harow was appointed chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, where he served for a year before leaving to run the 2015 election campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party.

In December, he was questioned under caution for a “range” of offenses he was suspected to have committed while working in the PMO.

Part of the latest investigation focuses on the sale of Harow’s consultancy firm 3H Global, an international government relations firm based in Israel, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. While the sale price was listed at three million dollars, Harow is suspected to have not received the full sum, pointing to a fictitious sale, the report said.

Harow was unavailable to comment on the suspicions or the latest investigation. 3H Global declined to make a statement.

Harow first worked for Netanyahu when he was appointed foreign affairs adviser during the premier’s tenure as opposition leader. He then spearheaded the 2009 election campaign that catapulted Netanyahu back into the prime minister’s office. Following the election, he served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief until 2010, managing the prime minister’s schedule and advising him on a range of issues. He was also was heavily involved in raising money for the prime minister in the US.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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