Sara Netanyahu To Be Indicted For Fraud

Reports released today confirm that the Israeli Police have sufficient evidence to recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for fraud. The Prime Minister himself is no longer suspected of wrongdoing in this case, but a senior staffer in his office, Ezra Seidov, and Avi Fahima, an electrician who did work in the Netanyahu private residence, are likely to be charged along with Sara Netanyahu.

Sara Netanyahu’s Fraud Charges Emerged After Abuse Charges Filed Against Her in Labor Court

While Bibi is a controversial Prime Minister, Sara Netanyahu stirs up much controversy on her own. Earlier this year, she was found guilty of abusiveness toward her staff. On the strength of evidence presented to the labor court, the government was forced to pay compensation and damages on her behalf to former Prime Minister Residence Custodian, Meni Naftali. The courts rejected her appeal challenging this court decision.

Throughout Bibi’s terms of office, Netanyahu has been in the news concerning her poor behavior toward those working in the Prime Minister’s residence. It was during investigations related to Naftali’s suit against Sara that evidence arose leading to suspicions of misuse of public funds and the current fraud charges.

Three Issues Included In Fraud Charges Against Netanyahu

Sara Netanyahu is likely to be indicted on misuse of funds allocated to both the official residence in Jerusalem and their private home in Caesarea, where they sometimes entertain as part of Bibi’s role as Prime Minister. One section of the fraud indictment alleges that she removed furniture from the Jerusalem residence that had been purchased with state funds and moved it to their private home in Caesarea in northern Israel along the coast. The furniture from their private home was apparently placed in the Jerusalem residence.

A second issue concerns the electrician, Avi Fahima. He was rejected when he applied for the position of electric contractor for the official Jerusalem residence because he was already the Netanyahu’s electrician for their private home and a long-time acquaintance — this was considered to be a conflict of interests. Sara Netanyahu got around this by having him subcontract under the official electrician and by calling for him on the weekends, and even Jewish holidays, when the official residence in-house contractor was not available. This involved greater charges to the taxpayer than weekday work. Furthermore, records were not properly maintained, and it is impossible to know what work was required on such an emergency basis and whether or not the work was actually done at the Jerusalem residence or at their private home.

A third section to the indictment for fraud involves return of recyclable bottles. Drinks for official entertainment and events were purchased using public monies. However, over the years, Netanyahu kept the refunds received for the bottles when they were deposited for recycling. When first called on this, Sarah returned 4000 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) to the public coffers. It appears, however, that the correct sum should have been over 24,000 NIS (over $6000).

The complaints against Sara Netanyahu have been named “Furnituregate,” “Electriciangate,” and “Bottlesgate.”

The public has long been suspicious that Sara exerts a hold over her husband and interferes with his decision making as Prime Minister. It is not clear how or if the fraud charges, if laid, will affect Bibi’s relationship with the electorate.

While Bibi has been cleared of any involvement in fraud regarding the expenditures concerning his residences, he is still under investigation for misuse of public funds when he traveled overseas while Finance Minister in 2003-2005. The investigation is ongoing and there are allegations of double billing, personal use of frequent flier miles that should belong to the government, use of public funds for family tickets, and more.

[Photo by Oded Balilty/AP Images]

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