Indictment implicates PM's wife in offenses blamed on Saidoff
Sara Netanyahu said to have had a direct hand in misdemeanors originally solely attributed to former deputy director-general of the Prime Minister's Office Ezra Saidoff; 'The defendant instructed (Saidoff) to get products and services … he explained were not authorized.'
In a major breakthrough in the protracted investigation against the prime minister’s wife, Mrs. Netanyahu was indicted at the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court for fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.
She is suspected of ordering private meals worth some NIS 350,000 (roughly $96,600) from high-end restaurants with the state footing the bill, despite the fact that a cook had been hired to prepare the meals at the residence.
According to the indictment, from the beginning of September 2010 at the latest and until March 2013, Sara Netanyahu acted in conjunction with Saidoff to create a false impression according to which no cook was employed at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem.
Another indictment was filed Thursday with the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court by the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office against the suspended Saidoff, who was charged with fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust, as well as falsifying documents in three different affairs at the Prime Minister's Residence.
In the indictment, Saidoff’s name is linked with three cases of illicit misconduct.
Originally, due to lack of evidence, Mrs. Netanyahu was not suspected of certain acts of corruption, leaving Saidoff as the prime suspect in the meals affair, in cases relating to the employment of waiters, electrician Avi Fahima and private chefs. It was originally difficult to prove that Mrs. Netanyahu was aware of the affairs' minutia.
Avi Fahima, a private electrician and former Likud Center member, was believed to have been hired to perform electrical work at Netanyahu's home in Caesarea in defiance of regulations and despite the fact that he is reportedly close to the Netanyahus, in violation of government regulations.
However, a closer examination of the indictment that was filed against the prime minister’s wife on Thursday shows that she also bears responsibility for some of the offenses that were originally blamed on Saidoff.
According to the indictment, Mrs. Netanyahu instructed former Prime Minister's Residence caretaker Meni Naftali, along with residence employee Meir Cohen, to hide from the accounting and administration officials in the PMO the fact that cooks were employed at the official residence. The cooks were said to be “cleaners”, “general workers” or given other false job titles.
Thee indictment emphasizes Sara Netanyahu’s involvement in the hiring of workers at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
“The residence was run according to the instructions and under the supervision of the defendant,” the indictment notes. “The defendant selected workers in the residence and their employment was stopped in accordance with her decision.
"The defendant determined the tasks and assignments for the residence workers and closely followed the progress of their implementation. Residence workers were required to report, and receive authorization, from the defendant for their absence from work,” the indictment notes before detailing how Mrs. Netanyahu ordered Saidoff to carry out acts she knew were illegal.
“The defendant instructed (Saidoff) and the caretaker on the necessities and services that she required that were to be supplied to her by the office,” it continues.
“Sometimes, when the necessities and services were not supplied, or when they were not delivered to her satisfaction, the defendant would implore (Saidoff) to arrange the provision of the services or the requested item, even in instances in which she knew that it was not included in the authorized expenditure by the office and in cases in which he explained to the defendant that funding a particular service or necessity could not be justified by the office,” it said.