AG Notifies Mrs. Netanyahu She Is Likely to Be Indicted

YERUSHALAYIM -
A police car stops at the entrance to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Yerushalayim in January. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is considering indicting Mrs. Sarah Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on suspicion of using state funds for personal dining and catering services amounting to some $100,000, the justice ministry said on Friday.

The statement said the attorney-general was considering prosecuting Mrs. Netanyahu for offences that include fraudulently procuring items, fraud and breach of trust.

Mandelblit emphasized that the pre-indictment hearing would give her a chance to influence his final decision.

Mandelblit explained that his decision was made “after he had examined the evidence in the case, and after hearing the positions of all of the relevant authorities.”

He said that both State Attorney Shai Nitzan and the Yerushalayim District Attorney’s Office had recommended an indictment.

Former Prime Minister’s Residence manager Meni Naftali. (Flash90)

She was questioned by police in December 2015. In May, it was recommended that she be charged with fraudulent acquisition, fraud and breach of public trust.

The charges in the indictment surround the embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of shekels from the state, from which she supposedly hired a caretaker for her elderly father, and for exaggerating the cost of meals at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The Netanyahus have denied the charges, instead pointing to former Chief of Staff of the household Meni Naftali as responsible for the embezzlement. Naftali has been a leader of the ongoing protests outside the home of Mandelblit demanding more aggressive action in prosecuting the Netanyahus on the various scandals they have been implicated in, including the household-budget scandal.

Sarah Netanyahu is innocent of all improprieties and violations of law, a statement by the Prime Minister and his wife said, and they are confident that all charges will be quickly dismissed if or when she is indicted in the the so-called “household-funding” scandal.

“The accusations against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s wife are absurd and will be proven as such,” the Netanyahus said in a statement. “Mrs. Netanyahu is a brave and honest woman who has never erred in her career in public service. Alongside her work as an educational psychologist, who expertly treats children in need every week, she also spends a great deal of time helping children who are cancer victims, Holocaust survivors, and lone soldiers.”

“The libelous accusations against her are the results of crimes committed by the head of staff in the Prime Minister’s household, Meni Naftali, a congenital liar who has taken a plea deal. During the period that Naftali was head of the staff the expenses were five times higher than the average of the years afterwards, when Naftali was no longer employed. Nothing else need be said,” the statement added.

Last week, Mrs. Netanyahu took a lie detector test, and passed, according to a report on the News One site. Mrs. Netanyahu was asked if she had ordered staff in the Prime Minister’s household to overstate the number of guests at social affairs, if she had changed the classification of dinners from “personal” (which the Netanyahus must pay for out of pocket) to “state” affairs (which the government pays for), and if she was aware of over-ordering or excess purchases of items used in the household. She replied that she was unaware of any of these things, and the test showed that she was telling the truth.

While the results of the test would seem to vindicate Mrs. Netanyahu, they are not acceptable as evidence in court, and “will most definitely not influence prosecutors in deciding whether or not to indict,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Channel Two in an interview last week.

“I personally do not get involved in investigations, but from what I know of the prosecutors, they will make a decision based on the evidence, and their opinion will not be swayed by anything that does not constitute evidence.” That includes, she said, protests outside Mandelblit’s home which have urged the State Attorney to take a tougher stance against the Netanyahus in the various investigations against them. “There is no need to protest outside a public servant’s home. Throughout the years High Court judges have said that the proper place for such protests is outside the office, not the home, of these public servants.”