Tel Aviv- Israeli police have summoned the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to question her on a corruption case linked to the use of public funds to cover the couple’s personal outgoings.
Several hours of questioning were carried out under caution at the national police fraud squad headquarters near Tel Aviv.
According to the Israeli media, new information has reached the police based on which there is a growing evidentiary basis on which to prosecute Mrs. Netanyahu.
In May, police recommended charging Sara Netanyahu, but not her husband, in what is widely referred to as the “prime minister’s residences affair.”
Sara Netanyahu was grilled in December 2015 over claims the couple billed the state for the cost of garden furniture and electrical repairs at their private villa in the exclusive coastal resort of Caesarea.
Thursday’s reports say the inquiry also covers the alleged billing of the prime minister’s office for hiring private chefs and caterers for family events at the premier’s official Jerusalem residence.
They said police were looking into claims that Sara used government funds to cover the cost of a live-in carer for her ailing father, now dead.
Channel 10 reported that the couple’s son Yair Netanyahu had flown to New York in September 2015 along with his father’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and stayed in a luxury hotel in Greenwich Village – with Australian billionaire James Packer footing the bill.
According to the report, Packer was also involved to some extent in Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. In a letter he sent to his friends, Packer said he and Netanyahu went over the speech together and he even boasted about having a copy of the speech.
According to the letter, Netanyahu even promised Packer a place in his entourage and a seat next to Sara Netanyahu. In a picture from the U.N. assembly, Packer can be seen sitting near the Netanyahu family with the Israeli delegation.
On other occasions the younger Netanyahu has taken vacations at Packer’s expense, often on the billionaire’s private plane, and sometimes even invited friends to come along too.
A former butler has also accused Sara Netanyahu of pocketing cash from deposit refunds for empty bottles returned from the official residence between 2009 and 2013, money that should have gone to the treasury.
In 2013, Netanyahu reimbursed the state $1,000 but the butler has said the figure should have been six times higher.
The Netanyahus have dismissed the allegations, widely circulated in the local media, as a smear campaign.