Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Friday morning his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu over her alleged misuse of vast sums of public funds to purchase extravagant meals from restaurants and chefs.
The indictment will be subject to a hearing on fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravating circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.
Mandelblit determined that between September 2010 – Match 2013, Mrs. Netanyahu acted, along with Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ezra Saidoff, to create a false pretense purporting no cook was employed in the prime minister’s residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, allowing her to order meals from restaurants and chefs reaching a total cost of around NIS 359,000 ($102,000).
Following an investigation into the matter, it turned out that cooks had in fact been employed there throughout the entire period.
The investigation raised suspicions that invoices for the meals were then forged in order to exceed the limit placed on food costs by splitting payments across numerous invoices.
In doing so, Mandelblit said, Mrs. Netanyahu and Saidoff exploited the protocol allowing cooked food to be ordered into the residence when no cooks are employed. As a result, the hefty triple tab fell on the Prime Minister’s Office for the hiring of the cooks already working in the residence, the ordered meals and the chefs who came in to cook for the Netanyahu family.
Mandelblit notified Mrs. Netanyahu’s attorney of his intention to indict her after which she will be called in for a preliminary hearing, before the attorney general makes a final decision to proceed.
The decision to possibly indict Mrs. Netanyahu came following Mandelblit’s examination of the evidence of the case, hearing out all relevant parties and receiving recommendations from both State Attorney Shai Nitzan and the Jerusalem District Attorney.
In addition to Mandelblit’s announcement, the Jerusalem District Attorney notified Saidoff’s lawyer that he may too be facing a possible indictment for his part in the various suspected scandals currently under investigation.
According to suspicions raised by the investigation’s initial findings, there were at least 15 cases when chefs were invited to the residence to cook for private guests of Mrs. Netanyahu and her family members. In all cases, invoices for the meals were forged to show the meal’s total cost spread on a larger number of portions.
This was allegedly done to circumvent limitations regarding the maximum sum of money that may be spent on cooked food per head privately hosted by the residence in the absence of an in-house cook.
Saidoff is believed to have instructed the chefs, caretakers and Mrs. Netanyahu’s secretaries to forge the invoices for the meals. When receiving the invoices, Saidoff approved with his own signature and passed them on to the accounting department.
For his part in the affair, Saidoff is said to have committed offenses of fraudulently receiving benefits with aggravating circumstances for a total worth of NIS 393,000 ($112,000). He is also believed to have enaged in fraud, breach of trust and document forging.
Responding to Mandelblit’s latest announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed the suspicions, appearing to pin the accusation on Meni Naftali who acted as the resident caretaker at the time of the unusual spending.
“Expenses on food and meals in takeaway trays were magically inflated during Meni Naftali’s time as chief caretaker of the residence, and no less magically plummeted when he left,” the prime minister wrote on his Facebook page.
“They told us about the garden furniture, the electrician, the bottles, the waiters, the caretaker. Now all we’re left with is the unbelievable, false story about the trays, most of which were ordered by Meni Naftali. And that too will evaporate come the hearing,” he promised.
The Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed the wife of Prime Minister Sara Netanyahu this morning that she is to be indicted in the dormitory affair on Friday.
Netanyahu will be charged with the offense of fraudulently receiving goods under aggravated circumstances., according to a Justice Ministry announcement.
Mandelblit announced his decision following the completion of a police investigation that strengthened the original recommendation of the Jerusalem District Attorney and the State Attorney to indict Netanyahu.
Both the prime minister and his wife have called Attorney Yossi Cohen in for an emergency meeting regarding Friday’s indictment.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the indictment’s announcement on his Facebook page. “The allegations against the prime minister’s wife are absurd and will prove to be false.
“Sara Netanyahu is a courageous and honest woman, and her actions have never been without merit. In addition to her weekly work as an educational psychologist and child care expert, she spends a great deal of time helping children with cancer, Holocaust survivors and lone soldiers.
The statement on Netanyahu’s Facebook page then veered somewhat off-topic, focusing instead on the prime minister’s past accusations against Meni Naftali, who used to work as a caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who sued the Netanyahu couple for mistreatment.
“The steep increase in meal expenses at the Prime Minister’s Residence was caused by offenses committed by the problematic Meni Nafatli, who is a serial liar and a criminal state witness. The average monthly expenditure on meals ordered during the period Naftali served as of the maintenance head (at the Prime Minister’s Residence—ed) was five times (!) higher than the monthly average of the next four years, when Naftali did not work there. That just says it all.
“The very preoccupation with the food (eaten by) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who works around the clock for the sake of the state and its security, and that (eaten by) his family, is pathetic and obsessive. No prime minister has ever garnered such nosiness, even though the expenses of other prime ministers on meals were identical, and sometimes even higher. How long will this obsessive preoccupation with the Netanyahu family last?”
Immediately after Passover, the District Attorney’s Office recommended that the allegations against Mrs. Netanyahu be considered by the court, in accordance to the evidence found and the police’s recommendations from a year ago, which led to the general conclusion that Netanyahu be indicted. The police has already stated that there is a sufficient evidentiary basis to prosecute Netanyahu and three members of her staff who allegedly provided her services.
The indictment deals with the employment of a caregiver for Sara Netanyahu’s late father, whose cost was allegedly paid for by the state. It also involves the Netanyahu family’s employment of electrician Eli Fahima for private jobs, on suspicions that the cost of meals at the Prime Minister’s Residence were inflated, and that the guest lists at various functions at the residence were also inflated beyond their actual expenses, without Mrs. Netanyahu paying for them herself.
According to the suspicions, Mrs. Netanyahu ordered extravagant meals from restaurants and chefs amounting to a total cost of around NIS 400,000 of public funds.
Naftali, for his part, responded to reports of Friday’s indictment by saying, “I feel that if the accusations will only mention the meals, it’s a trick to show that the attorney general is at work, but that it will only help Sara Netanyahu get out of everything. I’m not looking for revenge.”
The Netanyahus’ alleged purchasing of patio furniture for the Netanyahus’ private house in Caesarea at the expense of the state, is not to be included in Mrs. Netanyahu’s indictment, as she has since returned said patio furniture to the Prime Minister’s Residence.