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Ex-PM aide sent to house arrest after 14-hour interrogation

Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, grilled on suspicions of fraud upon landing at Ben Gurion airport; was questioned under caution

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

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)

After an early-morning detention by police upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff was questioned under caution by the police’s high profile anti-fraud unit for over 14 hours Thursday before being released to house arrest.

Harow was originally held 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, according to Hebrew media reports.

Being questioned under caution usually indicates that the person in the hot seat is considered a possible suspect and may face prosecution. Police said the questioning was 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.

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

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 denied any wrongdoing and predicted the probe would be closed with no charges filed.

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 Prime Minister’s Office.

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.

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

Harow founded 3H Global in 2010, between his stints at the PMO. According to the company’s website, the firm was founded “to help governments, NGOs and businesses.”

The website says Harow “utilizes his outstanding professional experience to reach the highest levels of government, community and philanthropy in order to help achieve this goal. His intricate knowledge of the synergy between government, media and other stakeholders helps give clients a competitive edge.”

When Harow was appointed Netanyahu’s chief of staff he gave up control of the company to his brother, Josh Harow, who currently serves as its chief financial officer.

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