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Report: Netanyahu tried to dismiss PMO legal counsel, who testified in his cases

According to Haaretz, the premier asserted that Shlomit Barnea Farago no longer enjoyed his trust, but an attempt to fire her was blocked by the attorney general

Legal counsel to the Prime Minister's Office Shlomit Barnea Farago (YouTube screenshot)
Legal counsel to the Prime Minister's Office Shlomit Barnea Farago (YouTube screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently sought to dismiss the legal counsel to the Prime Minister’s Office — who has testified in several criminal probes against him and his associates — but was blocked from doing so by the attorney general, Haaretz reported Friday.

Shlomit Barnea Farago has served in her post since 2001. In recent years she 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, as well as several of the prime minister’s own criminal investigations.

According to the report, Netanyahu recently asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for approval to fire Barnea Farago, saying she no longer enjoyed his trust.

Mandelblit, who supervises Barnea Farago, informed the prime minister that he could not approve for her dismissal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The report noted that Barnea Farago had testified about the allegations of overspending at the Prime Minister’s Residence — a case in which Sara Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust — telling investigators the Netanyahu family made “frequent” and “significant” requests for expenses that had not been the norm under previous governments.

Barnea Farago is considered an important witness in Case 3000, in which associates of Netanyahu have been accused of corruption and bribery in multi-billion-shekel naval deals. Netanyahu’s cousin and former attorney, David Shimron, is suspected of bribery, fraud and money laundering in the case. Police have said Shimron failed to disclose his meetings with various government and public officials to Barnea Farago, as he was required to do, to ensure there isn’t a conflict of interest.

Barnea Farago has also testified in Case 4000 on various conversations she held with Netanyahu over the probe. The case involves suspicions that Shaul Elovitch, owner of telecommunications company Bezeq, ordered the Walla news site, which Bezeq owns, to grant positive coverage to Netanyahu and his family in exchange for regulatory favors benefiting his business.

Barnea Farago also provided testimony related to Netanyahu’s other corruption probes.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on June 6, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Mandelblit is set to decide on three corruption probes against Netanyahu. He is reportedly leaning toward indicting Netanyahu, pending a hearing, on charges of bribery, and the announcement could be made as early as next month.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has accused the media and the left-wing of a witch hunt and a conspiracy against him, though he has not provided proof for those accusations.

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