Thursday 18 July 2019

Netanyahu's wife is fined €13,000 over lavish meals

Sara Netanyahu awaits the verdict at the hearing in Jerusalem. Photo: Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS
Sara Netanyahu awaits the verdict at the hearing in Jerusalem. Photo: Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS

Aron Heller

The wife of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to pay a fine of more than €13,000 for misusing state funds.

The sentencing of Sara Netanyahu comes after she agreed to a plea bargain that ended the years-long saga of just one of the high-profile corruption cases involving the prime minister's family.

The court ruling settled allegations that Ms Netanyahu had misused the equivalent of almost €90,000 in state money on lavish meals.

She was indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust last year after the state attorney's office accused her of running up large tabs at luxury restaurants while the official residence employed a full-time chef between the years 2010 and 2013.

The settlement involved her admitting a more minor charge of "intentionally exploiting the mistake of someone else", specifically by misleading officials who didn't realise she already benefited from chefs on the government payroll.

Under the terms of the bargain, Ms Netanyahu agreed to pay €2,500 in fines and hand the remaining €11,000 back to the state. The settlement also reduced the overspending charge to €45,000.

But the prime minister himself remains the main focus of the family's legal troubles.

He is facing an indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing scheduled for early October. He has pushed for a postponement and can still request an extension from the Supreme Court.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of accepting lavish gifts from billionaire friends and promising to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in exchange for favourable coverage. He vehemently denies wrongdoing, portraying himself as a victim of media-orchestrated persecution against him and his family in an attempt to oust him from power.

The prime minister and his wife have a reputation for leading indulgent lives at public expense.

The 60-year-old Ms Netanyahu in particular has been accused of excessive spending, using public money for her private, extravagant tastes and for abusive behaviour toward her personal staff.

In 2016, a court ruled Ms Netanyahu mistreated a house cleaner and awarded the man €37,000 in damages.

Other employees have accused her of abuse, charges the Netanyahus reject.

Another former housekeeper is currently suing Ms Netanyahu for €56,000 in damages over mistreatment and harassment.

Irish Independent

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