Sara Netanyahu's attorney brushes off corruption allegations ahead of indictment

Mandelblit intends to indict Netanyahu for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (C)  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (C)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Meni Naftali and other Prime Minister’s Residence house managers, not Sara Netanyahu, are responsible for the food orders for which Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit plans to indict her, her lawyer told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.
Attorney Yossi Cohen spoke to the Post following Mandelblit’s dramatic notification on Friday to Netanyahu that she is likely to be indicted in the “Prime Minister’s Residence Affairs,” subject to a pre-indictment hearing.
The prime minister’s wife is only to be indicted in one of four major affairs criminally investigated, “the Prepared Food Affair.”
In three additional affairs, the cases against her were closed after full criminal investigations, while in three other affairs, the cases were closed after initial reviews – without criminal investigations being conducted.
Sources close to the case told the Post on Friday that though there was unanimity about indicting Mrs. Netanyahu in the “Prepared Food Affair,” there were differences of opinion within the prosecution about closing some of the other cases against her.
Mandelblit emphasized that Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing would give her a chance to influence his final decision.
Though the attorney-general said that the hearing was his usual practice, technically Netanyahu does not have a right to a pre-indictment hearing such as is given to public officials as she holds no state office.
Regarding the Prepared Food Affair, Cohen and a spokesman for Sara Netanyahu initially told the media that Naftali was responsible for the allegedly illegal food orders in question. In other words, conceding that the orders might be problematic, they say that Netanyahu did not place or know of them.
Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017
The Post pressed Cohen, saying that Naftali only worked for Netanyahu for part of 2011 and 2012, such that blaming him did not provide her any defense against Mandelblit’s allegations against her for parts of 2010 and 2013.
Cohen then revealed that in their full defense Netanyahu’s legal team would claim that the house managers in 2010 and 2013 also ordered the prepared foods without her knowledge.
Separately, in interviews with Channel 10 on Friday and Channel 2 on Saturday night, Netanyahu lawyers Jacob Weinroth and Cohen said that Netanyahu would not seek a plea bargain and that she would also claim ignorance of the regulation which sets clear limits on prepared food orders for the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Cohen on Channel 2 Saturday night also attacked former prime minister Ehud Olmert for allegedly ordering large amounts of prepared food, saying that could be a defense for the Prime Minister’s Office doing the same during Benjamin Netanyahu’s term.
A spokesman for Olmert rejected the claim, and it was unclear if the same regulations about prepared food applied during Olmert’s and Netanyahu’s terms.
Late on Friday, Channel 10 presented excerpts of what it said was a full draft of the proposed indictment against Sara Netanyahu.
The Justice Ministry’s Friday statement said that a similar notice had been given to Ezra Seidoff, who had served as a deputy director- general of the Prime Minister’s Office.
While Mrs. Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing will be before Mandelblit, Seidoff’s will be before the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.
Channel 2 also said on Saturday night that Seidoff, at this time, was not considering a plea deal to turn state’s witness against Mrs.
The investigations addressed in Mandelblit’s announcement were as follows: • The “Prepared Food Affair”: According to the prosecution, from September 2010 until March 2013, Sara Netanyahu allegedly acted in coordination with Seidoff to present the false misrepresentation that the official Balfour residence did not employ a cook, even though it did during that time.
The two allegedly made this misrepresentation to circumvent and exploit regulations that stated: “In a case where a cook is not employed in the official residence, it is permitted to order prepared food as needed.” The two hoped to obtain state funding both for the cook at the residence and for prepared food orders, according to the draft indictment.
In this way, the two allegedly fraudulently obtained from the state NIS 359,000 in hundreds of prepared food orders.
Mandelblit, therefore, intends to indict Netanyahu for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.
The prosecution intends to indict Seidoff for the same offenses, while adding the charge of falsifying documents and with a total fraud amount of NIS 393,000.
Further, in 15 instances, invoices to chefs who were brought in from outside were allegedly falsified in order to circumvent limits on how much could be paid toward outside-chefs. Seidoff directed the chefs, the house managers and Netanyahu’s secretaries to falsify the invoices in these 15 instances.
Charges against Sara Netanyahu for these 15 instances are being closed by Mandelblit, as there was insufficient evidence to prove that she knew about Seidoff’s and the others’ actions.
• “The Waiters Affair”: The Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem allegedly employed waiters over weekends from the Mikud Company based on false misrepresentations that the workers were cleaning or upkeep employees and misrepresentations regarding the number of hours they worked. The misrepresentations about working hours were allegedly used to pay the waiters more than what cleaning and upkeep employees could have been paid.
Seidoff, the waiters, house managers and secretaries of Netanyahu falsified hours and invoices in order to pay the waiters NIS 29,000 beyond what they could have received, according to the prosecution.
The charges against Netanyahu on this affair are being dropped because Mandelblit found that the evidence against her knowledge of the falsifications did not meet the criminal law standard. Seidoff is to be indicted.
• “The Electrician Affair”: Seidoff is to be indicted for allegedly employing Avi Fahima for electrical work at the Prime Minister’s Residence despite knowing that employing him had been declared an illegal conflict of interest.
Seidoff allegedly falsified documents relating to paying Fahima NIS 10,000.
Mandelblit closed the charges against Sara Netanyahu in this affair, saying that the evidence against her did not meet the criminal standard regarding whether she was aware that employing Fahima was illegal and that Seidoff was falsifying receipts to employ Fahima.
Mandelblit’s finding in this affair is likely to raise eyebrows as it has been publicly known that Mrs. Netanyahu was the one who went out of her way to employ Fahima and the Netanyahus are the ones who had a conflict of interest to employ him.
• “The Father’s Homecare Affair”: Mandelblit is closing the case against Sara Netanyahu due to the small amounts of money involved, evidentiary problems and the difficult emotional circumstances.
In the affair, Netanyahu employed S. and G.
for six days and five days, respectively, to care for her sick and now deceased father. While normally her father had a different homecare arrangement, during those days that he was staying at the Prime Minister’s Residence, his regular arrangement was unavailable.
Netanyahu paid S. for taking care of her father. However, in addition, S. was paid by the state for providing cleaning services. G.
functioned as a substitute for S. when S. was unavailable. G. was paid by the state for cleaning services.
Mandelblit said that since Netanyahu had paid S., was unaware of extra payments to S., and all of the state payments to S. and G.
were small, he would not indict her, but that Netanyahu’s pattern of problematic conduct in that case would serve as evidence in the Prepared Food Affair.
As for the three preliminary probes closed without criminal investigations:
• Mandelblit mentioned that he had headed off a criminal investigation of state funds used to purchase memorial candles, since all of the relevant financial officials knew about the purchase and there were no misrepresentations.
• He also noted that he had not criminally investigated Netanyahu for “Bottlegate,” in which Sara Netanyahu allegedly obtained NIS 4,000 by recycling bottles purchased by the state. He said that there were evidentiary issues about Netanyahu’s awareness of the illegality of her actions.
Further, he said the amount of money was minuscule and noted she had returned NIS 4,000 to the state to erase any doubt of wrongdoing.
• Regarding “Furniture Gate,” Mandelblit explained that he had not criminally investigated Netanyahu, because all of the furniture moved from the prime minister’s public residence to the private residence was returned.
Further, he added that there was a legal basis for temporarily moving furniture for hosting state events at the Netanyahus’ private residence and that they had hosted state events at their private residence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Facebook to defend his wife following the news, posting a graph comparing the 2011-12 expenses of the Prime Minister’s Residence – the years Naftali served as house manager – with the years before and after. Netanyahu said that “the statistics speak for themselves.”
The expected indictment, however, relates to expenses from 2010-2013, encompassing years when Naftali was not serving in that capacity.
Recent days have seen drama between the Netanyahus and Naftali.
Naftali is expected to testify on behalf of the state against Sara Netanyahu on a range of issues and has become active in protests calling on Mandelblit to indict both Sara and the prime minister.
The Netanyahus in return have attacked Naftali’s credibility, including a deal he cut with police that stipulated he would only tell them what he knew about allegations about Mrs. Netanyahu if he received immunity from any allegations against him.
Naftali on Saturday night on Channel 2 accused the Netanyahus of being full of their own spin.