Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife charged with fraud, breach of trust

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Benjamin Netanyahu Sara Netanyahu
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted for allegedly misusing state funds to purchase nearly 100,000 dollars of prepared restaurant meals.PIX: Avi Ohayon/Israeli Prime Minister Office/dpa

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted for allegedly misusing state funds to purchase nearly 100,000 dollars of prepared restaurant meals, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

The fraud and breach of trust charges are sure to fuel critics of the Netanyahu family, which is already beset by corruption investigations of the prime minister, and accusations of living lavishly on government funds.

Sara NeTanyahu is accused of falsely declaring that the prime minister’s residence did not have a full-time cook and using this “misrepresentation” to spend over 350,000 shekels’ (96,000 dollars’) worth of state funds on prepared restaurant meals.

Under Israeli law the prime minister’s residence is barred from ordering outside food if a cook is on staff.

Netanyahu allegedly received hundreds of meals for herself, her family and guests from September 2010 to March 2013.

The legal team for Netanyahu blasted the charges as “absurd and delusional.”

In a statement her lawyers said that it is “the first time in the world that a leader’s wife is prosecuted for food in takeaway containers.”

Attorneys Yaakov Weinroth, Yossi Cohen, and Amit Hadad said that most of the food was not eaten by the Netanyahu family and some of it was for diplomatic meals, which would come from a different budget.

They also said that the regulations Netanyahu allegedly violated were written by officials without the proper authority and not approved by the proper committee in Israel’s parliament.

Among Sara’s preferred restaurants are Machneyuda – a renowned Jerusalem eatery – and an Italian and sushi spot.

The indictment also accuses Sara of misusing state funds to employ private chefs and waiters.

Police had already recommended indicting the premier’s wife in May 2016.

Along with Netanyahu, Ezra Saidoff, the deputy head of operations for the prime minister’s residence, was indicted for similar charges.

Sara Netanyahu’s lifestyle has long been fodder for the Israeli media, which has aired allegations of abuse towards her staff and even the prime minister.

The prime minister faces a web of corruption probes over allegations of illegal gifts from billionaires, regulatory kickbacks to a telecom giant, and attempts to illegally sway media coverage. Police have recommended indicting the prime minister for bribery in the illegal gifts and media coverage probes.

Israel’s attorney general will make a final decision on whether to charge the premier in a process that could take over a year. -dpa

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