Sara Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in graft cases

Sara Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in graft cases

Prime Minister’s Office insists PM’s wife committed no offense, says allegations of fraud will be proven baseless

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park in northern Israel, April 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park in northern Israel, April 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday denied his wife was suspected of wrongdoing, hours after police recommended Sara Netanyahu be tried for three separate cases.

In a statement attributed to “the Netanyahu family,” the Prime Minister’s Office asserted that Sara Netanyhau had done nothing wrong.

“The police statement did not include any recommendations to put Mrs. Netanyahu on trial. Contrary to the reports, Mrs. Netanyahu did not commit any offense,” the statement read. “The various claims coming up in the media will turn out to be baseless, along with all the other claims against the Netanyahu family over the years.”

A police statement put out earlier in the day said an investigation into Sara Netanyahu had been passed to the state prosecutor. Later reports said police had recommended she be charged.

Police told the state prosecutor they had amassed sufficient evidence to put her on trial for aggravated fraud for appropriating for private use public funds earmarked for the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The prime minister’s wife 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.

Two of the cases involve her using state money to order food for personal use on the public dime, and a third case involves using public funds to pay for a caretaker for her elderly father.

Handing over their findings to the Jerusalem district attorney, 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.

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)

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.

Allegations in the State Comptroller report related to the use of state funds for purchasing furniture designated for the Netanyahus’ Caesarea home. The furniture was apparently purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem and then moved to Caesarea while the Netanyahus’ older furniture was taken to the prime minister’s official 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 the taxpayer’s expense nearly every weekend over many months, including on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, raising suspicions that the reporting of those 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. He had previously been disqualified from carrying out work for the Netanyahus at the taxpayer’s 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 another unrelated case, the 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 in 2003-2005.

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