Ex-Netanyahu aide Ari Harow off the hook in fraud probe

(JTA) – After a week in house arrest in connection with a fraud investigation, police released Ari Harow, a California-born former chief of staff of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Harow, 43, was detained for questioning at Ben-Gurion airport last week and questioned for 14 hours in connection with suspected financial violations involving Netanyahu but he was released on Friday. Police said they will not seek to extend his detainment at this time, the NRG news site reported. The investigation, which is subject to a partial gag order, involved suspicions of massive money laundering, Israeli media reported.

Harow resigned his post in the Prime Minister’s Office in January 2015 in order to work on Netanyahu’s election campaign. The Los Angeles-native had already been questioned under caution in December 2015 on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust, when he was held under house arrest for five days.

A number of other Netanyahu associates have also been questioned in recent days.  Two additional senior officials who worked for Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office since 2009 are also to be questioned, according to Globes.

Police are also investigating Netanyahu for financial corruption related to three other matters: longstanding allegations of illicit funding for foreign travel; claims that Netanyahu and his family inappropriately used public state funds for food and entertainment; and the accusation that he illegally received a large sum for political campaigning from French billionaire Arnaud Mimran.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all three affairs.

According to Haaretz, police were investigating the sale of Harow’s consultancy firm, 3H Global.

Harow was raised in a family with seven children, including three who were adopted and one who has Down’s syndrome, according to The Jerusalem Post. He immigrated to Israel, or made aliyah, with his family when he was 12 and entered the Israel Defense Forces, serving in the Golani Brigade.

He went to Bar-Ilan University and Brooklyn College in New York, where he met his wife, Naomi. They have four children aged three to 12.

Eyal Gabai, a former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, told the Post he was certain of Harow’s innocence, attributing the allegations that led to the police probe as trumped  up by political rivals.

“I am sure Ari did not do anything wrong and that the police will find nothing, because he is straight” as an arrow, Gabai said.

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