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Netanyahu said threatening to sue legal adviser at PM’s office

Public broadcaster says ex-premier’s lawyer warned Shlomit Barnea Farago legal proceedings could be initiated, after reports on police probe into funding of home renovations

Prime Minister's Office Legal Adviser Shlomit Barnea Farago attends an award ceremony in Jerusalem on December 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister's Office Legal Adviser Shlomit Barnea Farago attends an award ceremony in Jerusalem on December 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former premier Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to sue the legal adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office after media reports about suspicions that state funds were used for renovations at his private home in Caesarea, according to Israel’s public broadcaster.

Yossi Cohen, a lawyer for the Netanyahu family, sent a demand letter to Shlomit Barnea Farago warning legal proceedings could be initiated against her, Kan news reported Saturday.

The letter reportedly claimed Barnea Farago was out to get the Netanyahus and had previously teamed up with Nir Hefetz — a former senior aide to the ex-prime minister turned state’s witness against him — to do so. The claim apparently referred to transcripts Hefetz was said to have made in which he and Barnea Farago discussed alleged inappropriate uses of public funds by Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

Barnea Farago, who has served in her post since 2001, in recent years has testified to police in several cases relating to Netanyahu and those close to him, including a fraud indictment against his wife, a graft case against his allies and several of the former prime minister’s own criminal investigations.

A 2019 report claimed Netanyahu tried to fire Barnea Farago but the move was blocked by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Saturday’s report came as police were looking into suspicions that private work done at the Caesarea residence was paid for by the state under false pretenses. The Netanyahus themselves are not currently suspected of wrongdoing.

Channel 12 news said the main issue was a jacuzzi installed at the residence, while Channel 13 news pointed to pool renovations and lighting work.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea. (Video screenshot)

The Netanyahu family has flatly denied the reports, saying that since they bought the home 20 years ago, no jacuzzi has ever been installed inside. The family said all renovations at the private residence were paid for personally and approved by official overseers.

Police are expected to summon witnesses this week to give testimony on the matter, the Ynet news site reported Friday.

Netanyahu and his wife have been the subject of several probes over the years on suspicion of illicitly using state funds for their own needs.

In 2019, Sara Netanyahu was convicted in a plea bargain that saw her confess to “taking unfair advantage of a mistake” and illegally procuring catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Her case was separate from her husband’s legal woes, in which the former prime minister is charged with accepting illicit gifts, taking bribes, and attempting to arrange favors for media barons in exchange for positive press coverage.

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address supporters on the night of the Israeli elections, at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Sara Netanyahu was a suspect in one of those cases, but prosecutors did not ultimately recommend she face charges.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now opposition leader, denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to curb his power.

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