(JTA) — Law enforcement covered up a conflict of interest by an investigator looking into Sara Netanyahu’s alleged misuse of public funds in the Prime Minister’s Office, an Israeli news channel is reporting.
The conflict of interest also could have harmed the police investigation into one of the corruption cases against Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 12 News reported Monday night.
Case 2000 accuses Netanyahu of cutting a deal with the publisher of the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot, Arnon “Noni” Mozes, to harm the circulation of the free daily Israel Hayom in exchange for more positive coverage from Mozes’ newspaper. Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in the case, and Mozes is on trial on bribery charges.
A police superintendent identified as Avi Rottenberg was having an affair with Mozes’ sister, Judy Shalom-Nir-Mozes, when he began his investigation in 2015 into Sara Netanyahu, according to the Channel 12 report. Nir-Mozes also owns shares in Yediot and was married previously to a Netanyahu rival within the Likud party.
The charges against Sara Netanyahu were reduced under a plea bargain and she paid a $15,000 fine.
Asked by his superiors in 2016 whether he was having an affair with Nir-Mozes, Rottenberg denied the claim and said he had no conflicts of interest and could continue with the investigation, according to internal police documents obtained by Channel 12. Rottenberg also was privy to explosive evidence in Case 2000, namely secret recordings of Mozes and Netanyahu, according to the report.
The head of the police anti-corruption unit eventually learned about the affair but did not report it. Rottenberg’s wife later informed the unit. Still, prosecutors declined to investigate in order not to derail the Case 2000 investigation, according to the Channel 12 report.
Rottenberg left the police in 2018 and now works as a lawyer in private practice. He told reporters that he was never privy to the evidence in Case 2000. He also said there were many investigators and set protocols in the case of Sara Netanyahu and he did not make any decisions unilaterally.
The state Attorney’s Office told Channel 12 that Rottenberg was not involved in Case 2000.
Likud officials have called for an investigation into a possible cover-up and for charges to be dropped in the corruption case against Netanyahu.