Sarah Netanyahu in hot water with police over PM residence scandal

Police sources revealed that ex-Chief of Staff Office of the Prime Minister was questioned two weeks ago in the probe of Sara Netanyahu

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board a plane (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board a plane
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Police questioned Sarah Netanyahu for more 12 hours on Thursday, her second interrogation in the investigation of suspected misuse of state funds by the Netanyahu family. She remained under questioning by the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit from approximately 1 p.m. until 1 a.m Friday morning.
In a statement, Lahav 433 said that the findings of the investigation were transferred to the Jerusalem District Attorneys office where a decision on prosecution will be reached.
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 report on Channel 10.
Police confronted Netanyahu and Ezra Seidoff, a former top deputy in the Prime Minister’s Office, who is also under investigation in the probe, based on the new information, the report said.
In response to the additional questioning, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “There won’t be anything, because there isn’t anything.”
Also in Thursday, police sources revealed that Gil Sheffer, the former chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, was questioned two weeks ago in the state funds investigation, and is also under suspicion for sexual assault. Police questioned Sheffer under caution on Tuesday regarding the sexual assault allegation.
A complaint was filed against Sheffer six weeks ago, accusing him of trapping a woman and forcing sexual acts on her. He was released to house arrest for five days following the questioning.
Police said the sexual assault allegedly occurred after Sheffer left his post at the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014. The former chief of staff was close to Natan Eshel, his predecessor, who was dismissed over another sexual harassment scandal. Ari Harow, Sheffer’s replacement, has been questioned in a probe of Netanyahu’s campaign financing.
According to a Channel 10 report, the incident involving Sheffer took place two months ago. Sheffer, who is also the honorary consul of Japan in Jerusalem, was invited to an event hosted by Yigal Amedi, the chairman of the National Council for Culture and Arts, where the alleged victim was a participant.
Sheffer allegedly offered the woman a car ride and would not take her home until she pleaded, then tried to kiss her by force when she left the car.
Sheffer’s lawyer Gil Fridman called the sexual assault allegations “baseless.”
A report in 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 additional investigative tasks.
The police in May recommended indicting Mrs. Netanyahu for 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 that job.
The police also recommended indicting Netanyahu for her use of state funds to hire a caretaker for her ill father.
Each of these instances is less widely known than “Bottlegate,” “Furnituregate,” “Bedgate” and other affairs that have received more media coverage until now, but which appear to be going nowhere at this point.
Another scandal Sara Netanyahu seems to have avoided being caught in, but that seems to have netted others, is “Electriciangate.”
In May, the police recommended indicting Seidoff and the family’s electrician Avi Fahima in that investigation.
Fahima was prohibited from performing work for the Netanyahus due to a conflict of interest, but allegedly did so anyway using a straw company as cover, so that the conflict would not be flagged.
Part of that scandal was also that Fahima was called to work frequently on weekends, and even on Yom Kippur, despite rules against such impositions.
In an unusual move, the initial and official May police statement about the end of the investigation made no mention of whether police found evidence to support the allegations against Sara Netanyahu.
The statement was met by fierce criticism in the WhatsApp group run by the Israel Police Spokesman’s office to communicate with dozens of crime reporters from across the country.
Journalists said the statement was unprecedented in its vagueness and a disservice to the public. One alleged that the content of the message was coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Office.
Some of the allegations against Sara Netanyahu stem from a February 2015 State Comptroller’s Report on a range of issues concerning the Prime Minister’s Residence, a report 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.