ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Former Netanyahu chief of staff Ari Harow convicted in plea bargain

State witness in PM’s corruption trial convicted for violating a conflict of interest agreement while serving as his close aide

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

State witness Ari Harow testifies in the trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fentonl/Flash90)
State witness Ari Harow testifies in the trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fentonl/Flash90)

Ari Harow, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was convicted in a plea bargain on Wednesday on one count of fraud and breach of trust by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

Harow was convicted for having engaged in a “fictitious sale” of a political consultancy company he had owned, which he had been required to sell as part of his conflict of interest agreement when he became Netanyahu’s chief of staff in 2014.

The fictitious sale preserved Harow’s connections to the company, which he took full ownership of a year after “selling” it. During that year Harow acted to benefit the company while serving as the prime minister’s chief of staff.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, Harow will perform six months of community service and pay a NIS 700,000 ($192,000) fine.

The State Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the plea bargain and conviction were reached after Harow admitted to the charges in the indictment, and that it was part of the framework within which Harow agreed to testify as a state witness in Netanyahu’s criminal trial in cases 1000 and 2000, in which Netanyahu is accused of fraud and breach of trust.

Harow took up his role as chief of staff in Netanyahu’s bureau in January 2014 and remained in that position until January 2015.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow (left) 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)

In 2010, Harow had set up a political consultancy called 3H Global and served as its director until January 2014.

Under the conflict of interest agreement he was required to sign in order to take up the post of chief of staff, Harow was obliged by the Attorney General’s Office to sell 3H Global since the company dealt with providing consultation and business development services to various parties, including foreign governments, “while interfacing with Israeli government officials.”

Harow, however, arranged with longtime friend and business associate, Dr. Gerald Platt, that Platt would ostensibly buy the shares in 3H Global while Harow would actually preserve his connection to the company.

Platt set up an acquisition company to buy 3H Global and it was agreed that that company would pay Harow $3 million in 12 quarterly payments from January 2014 to January 2017, and that the payments would come out of 3H Global profits, which would be transferred to the acquisition company as “management fees” or an “owner’s loan.”

The acquisition company would transfer those funds to a trustee and the trustee would transfer them to Harow.

Critically, an addendum to the sales contract was added whereby either side could cancel the agreement without reason, and the acquisition company would relinquish all payments it had received until that time for the purpose of buying 3H Global.

“The addendum and the revolving financing preserved the connection of the accused [Harow] to 3H [Global], in contrast to the display the accused presented to the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General,” the indictment said.

State witness Ari Harow testifies in the trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Jerusalem District Court hearing on May 10, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The contract was indeed eventually canceled by the parties on December 31, 2014, with Harow keeping the NIS 1,075,000 he had received until that time from the acquisition company.

The shares in the company formally reverted to Harow in January 2015.

The charge sheet also described how Harow acted to benefit 3H Global while serving as the prime minister’s chief of staff.

In 2014, a telecommunications company by the name of Nip Global Ltd with interests in countries around the world invited then-president of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina to Israel to demonstrate the company’s capabilities, and sought to arrange a meeting between the president and Netanyahu within the framework of that trip.

An official from Nip Global named Tuvia Grossman turned to Harow to assist in setting up the meeting. Harow told Grossman he couldn’t help since he was a public official, but said he would put him in touch with someone else who could.

Harow then spoke with Avi Winter of 3H Global about the issue, and Winter got in touch with Grossman. A contract was eventually signed between Nip Global and 3H Global for the latter to provide consultancy services to the tune of NIS 124,056 for a six-month period, during which time a meeting would be arranged between Rajaonarimampianina and Netanyahu.

Harow helped Grossman arrange the meeting with Netanyahu, met with the Madagascar president’s chief of staff to coordinate the meeting, and confirmed during that meeting that the two leaders would meet in June 2014.

Netanyahu and Rajaonarimampianina did eventually meet on June 8, 2014, with Harow also present.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Hery Rajaonarimampianina, president of Madagascar, June 8, 2014. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

The indictment said that Harow had acted for the benefit of Nip Global when he knew the company was a client of 3H Global.

“Harow admitted that he helped arrange the meeting between the president of Madagascar and the prime minister when he was acting in a conflict of interests between his public position and his personal interests,” the State Attorney’s Office said on Wednesday.

During testimony Harow gave to the Jerusalem District Court in May last year regarding Case 2000, Harow confirmed that Netanyahu had sought an agreement with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the popular Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, to temper its hostile coverage of the prime minister.

Netanyahu is accused in Case 2000 of fraud and breach of trust over his alleged attempt to reach a quid pro quo agreement with Mozes whereby Yedioth would give the prime minister more positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom.

Under questioning from Netanyahu’s defense attorney Amit Hadad, Harow agreed with his assertion that the police were “trying to trump up charges” against him in order to pressure him to testify against Netanyahu.

“Was it clear to you that you wouldn’t be a suspect as long as you give incriminating information about Netanyahu?” asked Hadad.

Harow answered: “I understood their goal was Netanyahu. I feared that I would become a suspect.”

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