Binyamin Netanyahu’s wife faces charges of misusing public funds

Sara Netanyahu suspected of using €85,000 in state funds for private expenses

Sara Netanyahu,  wife of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: faces a possible five-year prison term if found guilty of the fraud charges but a fine is the most likely outcome. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: faces a possible five-year prison term if found guilty of the fraud charges but a fine is the most likely outcome. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

 

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has notified Sara Netanyahu, the wife of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, that he has decided to indict her – subject to a hearing – on suspicion of fraudulent misuse of public funds amounting to €85,000.

Sara Netanyahu is suspected of using state funds to order lavish meals, including from some of Israel’s top chefs, while at the same time falsely claiming that there was no cook on hand at the prime minister’s residence at the time the meals were ordered.

According to the indictment, she is suspected of fraudulent acceptance of goods under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.

Mr Netanyahu rejected the charges.

“The allegations against the prime minister’s wife are absurd and will prove to be false. Sara Netanyahu is a courageous and honest woman, and her actions have never been without merit. In addition to her work as an educational psychologist, she spends a great deal of time helping children with cancer, Holocaust survivors and lone soldiers.”

Mr Netanyahu blamed Meni Naftali, a former caretaker at the prime minister’s residence who turned state’s witness, for falsely accusing Ms Netanyahu to cover his own crimes. Mr Netanyahu referred to the focus on the food he and his family ate as “pathetic and obsessive”.

Sara Netanyahu faces a possible five-year prison term if found guilty of the fraud charges but a fine is the most likely outcome.

The matter of the meals was one of four items examined in the case known as the prime minister’s residences affair, which the police started to examine two years ago.

Garden furniture

The attorney general decided against charging Ms Netanyahu on allegations of purchasing garden furniture for the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and transferring it to the couple’s private villa, for issuing false receipts to an electrician and for charging state coffers with the cost of a caregiver to look after her elderly father.

The indictment against his wife is an embarrassing blow to Mr Netanyahu, who is facing two criminal investigations into his personal and financial dealings – involving allegations that he accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and tried to forge a deal with a newspaper publisher that would result in more favourable coverage.

Commentator Sima Kadmon, writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper, speculated that the indictment could mark the beginning of the end for Mr Netanyahu’s political career.

“Money belonging to us, the public, was stolen to satisfy the whim, pleasures and delights of the ‘royal’ family. And no, it is not the media. It is not the “left” that wishes to topple a sitting prime minister. It is the police and the attorney general, who Netanyahu himself appointed, and who did everything in his power to procrastinate, to diminish, to get rid of whatever was possible.

“The Teflon non-stick figure known as Binyamin Netanyahu has started to crack. This week it exhibited deep cracks that attest to the start of the great crisis, the one that will ultimately lead to his political end.”