Netanyahu family accuses media of ‘false leaks’

The complaint comes after alleged transcripts of Sara Netanyahu’s 12-hour questioning by police were published by Hebrew media.

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December 4, 2016 06:32
3 minute read.
Sara Netanyahu

Sara Netanyahu sitting next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

Lawyers representing the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed a complaint with the Attorney- General’s Office and Israel Police Investigations Division on Saturday after alleged transcripts of Sara Netanyahu’s 12-hour questioning by police last week were published in the Hebrew media.

The complaint, filed by attorney Yossi Cohen, accused TV Channels 2 and 10 of “forging protocols and other false leaks,” and said the actions “constitute obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses.”

The Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit questioned Netanyahu from approximately 1 p.m. Thursday until 1 a.m. Friday, her second interrogation in the investigation of suspected misuse of state funds by the family. Lahav 433 said in a statement that the findings of the investigation were transferred to the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, where a decision on prosecution will be made.

Channel 2 released an alleged transcript leaked from the investigation on Friday, according to which Netanyahu was questioned about the alleged misuse of state funds to provide care to her elderly father; falsely representing catering expenses; and regarding the Netanyahu family electrician, Avi Fahima.

According to one exchange, police investigators asked Netanyahu if she had reported guests of the prime minister as foreign in order to receive NIS 300 per guest for catering, as apposed to NIS 218 for non-foreign guests.

“Not true. And catering of NIS 218 brings take-away trays with cold schnitzel,” she reportedly responded.

Quoting police sources, Channel 10 said police have enough evidence to indict Netanyahu. The Netanyahu family’s complaint contended that the Channel 2 and 10 reports were “false and distorted.”

“It should be emphasized that this is not a few mistakes here and there, but malicious falsification of the comments attributed to Sara Netanyahu and systematic planting of falsehoods that did not exist in the investigation on December 1, 2016,” the complaint said.

Following the Hebrew media reports, Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal insinuated that Netanyahu or someone close to the family leaked the transcripts in an attempt to “assail police investigators.”

The Netanyahu family complaint accused Rosenthal of promoting “evil and futile accusations against the prime minister’s wife.”

Sara Netanyahu’s interrogation follows the November 1 questioning of Meni Naftali, the former caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence in the capital. That testimony lasted for several hours and raised new questions in the case, according to a Channel 10 report.

In response to the additional questioning, the Prime Minister’s Office said: “There won’t be anything, because there isn’t anything.”

In conjunction with the Netanyahu investigation, police sources revealed on Thursday that Gil Sheffer, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, was questioned two weeks ago in the state funds investigation and is also under suspicion of sexual assault.

Police questioned Sheffer under caution on Tuesday regarding the sexual assault allegation.

Sheffer’s lawyer, Gil Fridman, called the sexual assault allegations “baseless.”

Yediot Aharonot cited unnamed police sources alleging that Sheffer’s sexual assault investigation is an attempt by police to gather information regarding the Netanyahu family investigation.

Police said the investigations are separate and unrelated.

The developments regarding Sara Netanyahu come approximately six months after the police recommended indicting her; after she had already been questioned multiple times earlier in the year; after the emergence of new evidence; and after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit asked the police to carry out further investigation.

The police in May recommended indicting Sara Netanyahu on fraud and breach of trust charges related to using public funds for buying food, paying special chefs and related costs for hosting private events.

The funds used are beyond what the state pays for a wide array of expenses of any prime minister, or what are considered normal for hosting ambassadors, ministers and foreign heads of state as part of the job.

The police also recommended indicting Netanyahu for her use of state funds to hire a caretaker for her ill father.

Some of the allegations against Netanyahu stem from a February 2015 State Comptroller’s Report on the Prime Minister’s Residence that was issued weeks before the last national election and which was viewed at the time by the prime minister as a major threat.

Other allegations came as a result of a civil labor court suit by Naftali, who won an NIS 170,000 judgment against the Netanyahu family in February for poor treatment and failure to pay overtime.

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.


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