Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife has been questioned by police for allegedly using public money for personal use. Sara Netanyahu, who is accused of splurging state funds on lawn furniture and for maintenance work in their private villa, denies the charges.
Investigators on 31 December questioned Sara for about five hours at the headquarters of the anti-fraud police unit in Lod city, 15 km southeast of Tel Aviv. The investigation follows a State Comptroller's report in February that levelled the allegations.
According to Ynetnews, Sara gave investigators copies of investigation documents, payment bills and receipts, and explained her stand. Investigators are expected to compare Sara's answers with those of Ezra Saidoff, deputy director for operations at the Prime Minister's Office, who is also being investigated in the case.
According to the comptroller's report, Sara also used public money to buy alcohol, ice creams and make-up, and to pay her hairdressers and for her father's care. During 2010-11, she allegedly spent twice the allocated budget on her hair and make-up, amounting to 166,000 shekels (£29,000). The report claims the Netanyahus had a contract worth £1,700 with an ice cream shop and had accumulated £16,900 in alcohol bills.
Sara is alleged to have overpaid an electrician, Avi Fahima, a former member of Likud party and a close acquaintance of the country's first couple. He carried out "repair works" at Netanyahus' private villa in the seaside resort of Caesarea during Sabbath – a day set aside for rest and worship for Jews – and on Yom Kippur, a "Day of Atonement" spent on fasting and reflection. Police have questioned Fahima on the £1695 he allegedly received as payment from the Netanyahus.
It is also alleged that Sara pocketed £670 from the refund of empty bottles, which were purchased by the government. Sara returned the money to the government treasury after the allegation was published in 2013.
"She would collect the bottles obsessively. 'Here's a bottle, here's another bottle.' She would buzz the intercom and say: 'Meni, I sent you another bottle,'" former chief caretaker of the prime minister's official residence, Meni Naftali, had alleged in an interview.