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Netanyahu’s wife seen close to being charged over expense scandals

Attorney general reportedly getting ready to indict Sara Netanyahu on four separate allegations of using hundreds of thousands of shekels of state funds for private use

Raoul Wootliff is the producer and occasional host of the Times of Israel Daily Briefing podcast.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive to the Magistrates Court in Tel Aviv to a court hearing against journalist Igal Sarna on March 14, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive to the Magistrates Court in Tel Aviv to a court hearing against journalist Igal Sarna on March 14, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is reportedly close to indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu for diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses, according to an Israeli television report Monday.

Sara Netanyahu was interrogated at National Fraud Squad headquarters near Tel Aviv last week over allegations she used public money for personal housekeeping expenses at the couple’s official and private residences.

According to Channel 2 news, Sara Netanyahu is facing charges on four separate cases, with her husband facing deepening legal woes in unrelated criminal investigations. Mandelblit is expected to announce the charges in coming days, according to the report.

She is suspected of improper behavior and misuse of state funds relating to the Prime Minister’s Residence, including receiving goods under false pretenses, falsifying documents, and breach of trust.

There was no immediate confirmation from the attorney general’s office, which was unreachable.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that the report was premature.

“We want to clarify that at this stage the attorney general has not yet made a decision on the case,” the statement read. “When a decision is made, after the end of the investigation that was ordered by the attorney general, a public statement will be made, as is the accepted practice.”

According to Channel 2, the first charge involves the hiring of electrician Avi Fahima, a Likud Central Committee member. A committee charged with overseeing residence expenditures — which included the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser — ruled against the hiring of Fahima, but he was employed nonetheless.

Further allegations relate to the use of state funds for purchasing furniture designated for the Caesarea home. The furniture was apparently purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem and then moved to the Netanyahu home, while their older furniture was taken to the Prime Minister’s Residence to replace it.

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The prime minister’s wife is also suspected of improper use of state funds for medical care for her late father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi. And she is also suspected of routinely making false reports that the family was entertaining guests, or exaggerated the number of guests, at the prime minster’s residence in order to receive catering services at the expense of the state.

The cost to the state is estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels over a period of many years.

Police recommended an indictment in May 2016.

The decision to launch the investigation came in light of the state prosecutor’s recommendation, after allegations were raised in a report February 2015 by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira that detailed lavish spending by Netanyahu and his wife at their official residence in Jerusalem, as well as at their private home in Caesarea.

Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen called the allegations “ridiculous.”

“How far will the persecution of the Netanyahu family go? As far as the cup of tea that an employee of the residence gave Mrs. Netanyahu’s 97-year old father on his death bed while he lived in their home,” he said in a statement aired by Channel 2 in response to the report.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has claimed in the past that she is a victim of a plot to topple the prime minister and that former employees have been paid to testify against her.

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