Israel's attorney general on Monday opened a criminal investigation into suspected mismanagement of the household spending of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein agreed to a police recommendation to look into "a number of matters concerning the running of the prime minister's residences," Reuters reported, citing a justice ministry statement.
Netanyahu and his wife Sara are not suspects in the investigation at this time, Haaretz reported. The chief suspect is reportedly Ezra Saidoff, the prime minister's deputy director general for material and operational resources.
The investigation is based on a report by the State Comptroller, the national auditor, which found that the taxpayer-funded costs of the prime minister's official and private residences between 2009 and 2013 were extraordinarily high.
The probe is reportedly expected to focus on three issues. One, the employment of electrician Avi Fahima, a former senior member of Netanyahu's ruling Likud party and a close friend of the prime minister. The report found that Fahima was hired in a way that circumvented state regulations and that he was paid inflated amounts of money.
The second issue relates to refunds on recycled bottles. Haaretz reported in January that Sara Netanyahu allegedly kept thousands of shekels in bottle refunds that should have rightfully gone to the government. The residence's former caretaker Meni Naftali filed a lawsuit against the Netanyahus and the Israeli government two years ago, and received a sum of money in compensation. However, Naftali alleged that Sara had taken almost six times the value paid in compensation, Haaretz reported, citing official evidence.
The final issue relates to garden furniture bought for the leader's official residence, which the police suspect was transferred improperly to his private residence.
During the hotly contested election cycle that ended with Netanyahu's re-election in March, newspapers and opposition figures closely scrutinized the home affairs of the Netanyahu family, including allegations of Sara's callous treatment of her domestic staff. The Netanyahus reportedly denied the allegations and called on the media to focus on the election cycle, and not their personal lives.