Sunday 9 December 2018

Netanyahu's wife faces charges over $100,000 meals bill

Israel's Prime Minister's wife Sara Netanyahu. Photo: Francois Mori/AP Photo
Israel's Prime Minister's wife Sara Netanyahu. Photo: Francois Mori/AP Photo

Karla DeWintours

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara was charged yesterday with fraud and breach of trust after a lengthy police probe into allegations she falsely claimed meals worth $100,000 (€86,158), the justice ministry said.

The move represents the latest legal headache for Mr Netanyahu and his family, as the authorities investigate the combative premier over allegations of corruption in a string of eye-catching cases.

The justice ministry announced that "the Jerusalem district prosecutor a short time ago filed charges against the prime minister's wife".

The ministry said that Ms Netanyahu was accused of falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the prime minister's official residence and ordering "hundreds of meals from outside caterers at public expense".

From 2010 to 2013 Ms Netanyahu, her family and guests received "fraudulently from the state hundreds of prepared meals (each including a number of courses) to the value of 359,000 shekels", the indictment read.

Ms Netanyahu, a high-profile presence at her husband's side throughout his lengthy time at the helm, has denied any wrongdoing.

According to the charge sheet, the meals were ordered from a variety of well-known Jerusalem establishments.

They included an Italian restaurant, a Middle Eastern grill and a sushi establishment.

The trial is set to be held at the Jerusalem magistrates court, with the prosecution requesting it be held before a panel of three judges due to the "public sensitivity" of the case.

The legal woes come as Ms Netanyahu's husband is under the microscope on suspicion of a series of corruption offences.

In one case, the prime minister and his family are suspected of receiving one million shekels worth of luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy individuals in exchange for financial or personal favours.

In another case, investigators suspect the premier of trying to reach an agreement with the owner of 'Yedioth Ahronoth', a leading Israeli newspaper, in exchange for more favourable coverage.

Mr Netanyahu has protested his innocence.

He has vowed to remain in power, saying he is the victim of a "witch-hunt".

Irish Independent

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