AG announces intention to indict PM's wife, pending hearing
Expected indictment comes over suspicions indicating Sara Netanyahu used 359,000 shekels of public funds to pay for extravagant restaurant and chef-cooked meals before attempting to conceal her activities by spreading costs over numerous spurious invoices.
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.