Police recommend Sara Netanyahu stand trial on graft allegations

Sufficient evidence said found to indict prime minister’s wife, 2 others over financial irregularities at Prime Minister’s Residence

Sara Netanyahu arrives to testify at the Menny Naftali trial at the Jerusalem Labor Court on May 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu arrives to testify at the Menny Naftali trial at the Jerusalem Labor Court on May 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Police on Sunday concluded its investigation into financial impropriety at the Prime Minister’s Residence and recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu stand trial on graft allegations.

Handing over their findings to the Jerusalem district attorney, the police said there was sufficient evidence to indict Sara Netanyahu, electrician Avi Fahima, and Ezra Saidoff, deputy director for operations at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sara Netanyahu has been accused 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.

The police investigation was launched after a state watchdog last year found possible criminal elements in aspects of the Netanyahus’ spending, following complaints by a former custodian at the Prime Minister’s Residence who successfully sued for damages after alleging abuse at the hands of Sara Netanyahu.

Ezra Saidoff, deputy director of the Prime Minister'’s Office in Jerusalem on May 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ezra Saidoff, deputy director of the Prime Minister’’s Office. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Allegations in the state comptroller report related 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 PM’s residence to replace it.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report noted that Fahima, the electrician, was listed as having been called to make repairs at taxpayer expense nearly every weekend over many months, including on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, raising suspicions that the reporting of these payments may have been inaccurate.

Fahima was allegedly hired by the official residence in order to circumvent restrictions on public funds covering upkeep costs at the Netanyahus’ private home in Caesarea.

Fahima had previously been disqualified from carrying out work for the Netanyahus at taxpayer expense because of a conflict of interest linked to his work for them on a private basis, but then was found working at the official residence under the pretense of working for another contractor.

The comptroller added that Fahima was called by Sara Netanyahu or her staff directly, so there was only a scant paper trail to show whether the electrical problem purportedly leading to the weekend repair calls, which are more expensive than weekday calls and require summoning a special outside electrician instead of the residence’s in-house one, couldn’t have waited until the start of the workweek.

In December, the Netanyahus denied the allegations, and said the “the claims against the prime minister’s wife are baseless and imaginary, and this will be clearly proven.”

The report has been a sticking point in the public perception of Netanyahu, who has often been criticized for excessive spending on the taxpayer dime.

Earlier Sunday, the National Labor Court rejected a request by Netanyahu to appeal a separate abuse suit by her ex-caretaker. The court in February awarded Menny Naftali NIS 170,000 compensation (about $43,735) for years of mistreatment he suffered while working at the Jerusalem residence, and also ruled he had been misled over his terms of employment. Netanyahu had sought to appeal the decision, but because she was not named as a defendant in the original case, the court ruled Sunday she could not appeal the verdict.

In another unrelated case, a state comptroller report released last week raised suspicions of criminal behavior related to the Netanyahus receiving gifts in the form of flights abroad when Benjamin Netanyahu served as finance minister 2003-2005.

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