Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, sentenced for fraud in plea bargain

The sentence by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court is seen as a reward for Harow’s cooperation in the high-stakes prosecution of Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Ari Harow, who served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2014-2015, was handed six months of community service and fined 700,000 shekels ($190,000) for convictions of fraud and breach of trust.

The sentence by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court is seen as a reward for Harow’s cooperation in the high-stakes prosecution of Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister who is charged with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust over his ties to wealthy associates.

While working as Netanyahu’s top aide, Harow admitted to orchestrating a “fictitious sale” of his small political consulting firm, 3H Global, in 2014 for an inflated $3 million sale price. The overvalued sale allowed Harow to bypass conflict-of-interest rules requiring him to divest business holdings while serving as chief of staff.

Prosecutors say Harow transferred the $3 million in proceeds to a relative, then had the money returned after leaving the prime minister’s office a year later.

The 46-year-old Harow was among the first arrested in 2021 in the long-running investigations that led to Netanyahu’s indictment. He subsequently struck a deal to turn state’s witness against his former boss, providing key testimony about an allegedly illicit supply of luxury gifts that flowed between Netanyahu and two billionaire friends.

Harow told prosecutors that Netanyahu was fully aware of the inflated payment Harow received through his company’s “fictitious” sale. He also described a quid pro quo where Netanyahu allegedly used his position of power to assist the billionaires in exchange for luxury items like champagne and cigars.

With Harow’s testimony locked in, prosecutors appear determined to achieve a conviction despite Netanyahu’s claims of innocence and repeated attempts to discredit the cases through delays and other legal maneuvering.

The sentencing comes just weeks before Israelis head to the polls on November 1 for the fifth national election in under four years, with the allegations against Netanyahu a key issue. While he is fighting for his political life, the cases against him are expected to drag on for months or even years longer.