Israeli leader's household spending facing criminal probe

AP News
Posted: Jul 21, 2015 6:25 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's attorney general has ordered a criminal investigation into excessive spending at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residences.

Monday's announcement followed a report by the state comptroller, an official watchdog body, that cited large sums of public money spent on food, furniture, cleaning and gardening at Netanyahu and his wife's official residence in Jerusalem and their private home in the exclusive coastal city of Caesarea.

Cleaning expenses in that home alone averaged more than $2,100 a month in taxpayer's money, according to the February report, even though the couple only spent the occasional weekend there. It also said they pocketed proceeds from recycling bottles that had been purchased for entertaining official guests. It said the bottle returns, and purchases of garden furniture for their private home, may have violated the law.

The Netanyahus are not expected to be questioned yet, with most of the focus directed at Ezra Saidoff, a staffer who oversees much of their affairs.

Netanyahu's office declined comment, though in the past they have accused the media of launching a witch hunt against them.

The Netanyahus are no strangers to such scrutiny. The prime minister has long been saddled with an image as a cigar-smoking, cognac-drinking socialite, while his wife has come under fire for her own expensive tastes and alleged abusive behavior toward staff.

Over the years, reports have been released about the high cost of the Netanyahus' catering, housekeeping, furniture, clothing and makeup. In one case, the premier was chided for spending $127,000 in public funds for a special sleeping cabin on a flight to London. Even their costly purchases of scented candles and pistachio-flavored ice cream have been derided.