Ex-caretaker provides testimony in Sara Netanyahu fraud case

Ex-caretaker provides testimony in Sara Netanyahu fraud case

Menny Naftali says he'll ask police to shoot down reports he'll turn state's witness regarding alleged misuse of state funds

Former Prime Minister's Residence caretaker Menny Naftali at the Herzliya Magistrate's Court on December 26, 2017.(Flash90)
Former Prime Minister's Residence caretaker Menny Naftali at the Herzliya Magistrate's Court on December 26, 2017.(Flash90)

A former caretaker at the prime minister’s residence provided further testimony to police investigators on Tuesday regarding the alleged misuse of public funds by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

Menny Naftali was also set to ask police to clarify he is not a state’s witness in the case, following reports to that effect last summer.

“I came to complete the investigation and also to receive confirmation that I’m not a state’s witness so they won’t say this in any more in the media,” Hadashot TV news quoted him as saying upon his arrival at the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit’s headquarters.

In September, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Sara Netanyahu he intended to indict her for fraud for allegedly diverting some NIS 360,000 ($104,000) of shekels in public funds for her own use, with the specific intention of avoiding payment of personal expenses.

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on January 22, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The indictment also named Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, as a defendant in the case.

“The decision was made after the attorney general examined the case material and after he heard the positions of the relevant sources, including the recommendations of the state prosecution and the Jerusalem district prosecution to consider pressing charges,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said at the time.

The charges relate to the overdrawing of funds from state coffers for private meals ordered to the prime minister’s residence.

According to the statement, Sara Netanyahu and Saidoff deliberately created the “false appearance” that there was no official chef working at the residence when in fact there was a full-time employee in the position. That was done in order to allow them to “sidestep the guidelines” that say that only when there is no chef employed are the prime minister and his family entitled to charge the state for food ordered to the residence.

“In this manner, they fraudulently received hundreds of meals from restaurants and outside chefs worth some NIS 359,000 ($102,000),” the statement said, adding that the specific charges being considered were for “aggravated fraud and breach of trust.”

Naftali served as caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence in 2011-2012 and has alleged he was verbally and physically abused by the prime minister’s wife during his employment. Last February he was awarded NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages from the state after a labor court accepted his claims.

In addition to the fraud case, Sara Netanyahu was questioned earlier this month in the Bezeq graft probe. The case involves suspicions Benjamin Netanyahu advanced regulations benefiting Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site.

Shaul Elovitch arrives for extension of his remand in Case 4000 at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Lezion, February 18, 2018. (Flash90)

Channel 10 reported last month that investigators are in possession of correspondence between Sara Netanyahu and Elovitch’s wife that appear to implicate the prime minister’s wife in the burgeoning scandal.

The news outlet published a text message sent by Sara Netanyahu to Iris Elovitch blasting coverage of the Netanyahus on Walla and urging her to “quickly” change it.

“You’re killing us. You’re slaughtering us. You’re destroying the state. What type of site is this?” Sara Netanyahu wrote in a WhatsApp message at an unspecified time, according to the report. “Change this. Do something with this. You’re the owners of the site. This should happen quickly.”

In another text, Netanyahu reportedly asked Elovitch why Walla editor Aviram Elad had not yet been fired.

The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing.

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