Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening a lawsuit against the legal counsel of the Prime Minister’s Office Shlomit Barnea Farago, Kan 11 News reported Saturday night. Netanyahu’s attorney sent a letter of warning before taking action to Farago following the publication of allegations that Netanyahu used at his private home money that had been intended for use in the prime minister’s office.
The police fraud investigation unit recently launched an investigation into the possibility of illegal use of the budget of the prime minister’s office by officials to install a Jacuzzi in Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea.
The examination procedure, which is a preliminary step before deciding whether to start a criminal investigation, followed a request from Farago. According to a Ynet report last Thursday, the legal counsel approached Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with a request to order clarification of the issue and suggested there had been an improper use of the PM’s office budget funds to cover the private expenses of the Netanyahu family. Farago allegedly told the AG there should be an investigation of whether the officials received instructions from the Netanyahu family or acted on their own.
A response on behalf of the Netanyahu family stated that “since the Netanyahu couple bought their home in Caesarea about 20 years ago, no Jacuzzi has been installed in it, and of course the state did not invest even a penny in what was not installed. This is a complete lie.”
Yair Netanyahu, who serves as the family’s spokesman, also tweeted: “And especially now that we understand there was no Jacuzzi, we must remember – the taxpayer is going to pay 15 million shekels for the renovation of Bennett’s private home in Raanana, 7 million for Lapid’s in Ramat Aviv, and 7 million for Gantz’s in Rosh HaAyin.”
Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, claims that the legal counsel Farago has been persecuting the Netanyahu family for years and even collaborated to that end with Netanyahu’s close associate Nir Hefetz. Hefetz, who was a spokesman for Netanyahu and the Likud party, turned state witness in Case 4000 in which Netanyahu is accused of using the Ministry of Communications to improperly assist the owners of the communications giant Bezeq.
It should be noted that legal counsels to government ministries are obligated to pass on information that raises their suspicion of past or ongoing crime, and are not allowed to verify these suspicions on their own.
Farago began her work in the legal office of the prime minister’s office during the first term of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1996-1999), and since then has continued as the legal counsel under Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu (since 2009). Farago is also the legal counsel to the Ministry of the Diaspora, Social Equality, Strategic Affairs, Information, Intelligence, and Jerusalem and Heritage.
Farago also serves as Director on behalf of the State on the Board of Directors of the Israel Electric Company. She has also served as a member on behalf of the State in the Council for the Commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin, the General Assembly of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Steering Committee of the Massa and Birthright projects, member and acting chairman of the EMT prize committee, and member of the Genesis Prize selection committee.