Sara Netanyahu charged with fraudulent misuse of state funds
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has been charged with fraud over the alleged misuse of state funds.
Suspicions included the misuse of around $100,000 in official funds for catering services at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the justice ministry said in a statement.
The prime minister’s wife and a deputy director of the PM’s Office are indicted for violating regulations barring the ordering of meals when a cook is on the residence’s staff, according to reports.
Haaretz reports: Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on Thursday for alleged “systematic fraud” involving hundreds of thousands of shekels in connection with meal expenses incurred at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Sara Netanyahu was charged along with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The two are charged in an indictment filed at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court with aggravated fraudulent receiving of an item or items, fraud and breach of trust. Saidoff was also charged with falsification by a public servant.
According to a draft of the indictment, Sara Netanyahu instructed staff at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to order meals consumed at the residence worth a total of 350,000 shekels ($96,000) from gourmet restaurants between 2010 and 2013 in violation of rules barring the residence from ordering meals from the outside during periods when the residence had a cook on its staff.
Investigators in the case gathered evidence that purportedly shows that the prime minister’s wife ordered that the employment of cook at the residence be concealed and that she was aware that ordering meals from the outside for the residence when it employed a cook was a violation of the rules.
In July 2015, a probe was initiated, based on the state comptroller’s report concerning the Netanyahu households; its findings were turned over for criminal investigation by the police national fraud squad.
The investigation looked into a series of scandals, including public funding for at least 15 privately catered meals while forging the number of their participants, residency cleaner who were paid by the State but instead was retained as a live-in nurse for Sara Netanyahu’s father, and the case of the Likud member electrician hired to work in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and their home in Caesarea, despite the prohibition on hiring a Likud activist.
According to the investigation, the electrician, Avi Fahima, received higher fees than those he was eligible for.
Other investigations were closed without suspicion for criminal offenses, including patio furniture taken from the official residence to the couple’s private home in Caesarea, buying thousands of dollars’ worth of scented candles on the official budget, and keeping thousands of shekels from deposits on empty bottles that were returned, on her orders, to supermarkets in Jerusalem over the course of several years even though the bottle deposits were state property.
In September 2017, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced he would file an indictment against Ezra Saidoff and Sara Netanyahu pending a hearing.
At the same time, he announced he would close most of the suspicions against Netanyahu due to lack of evidence proving she was aware of the fraud and forgery.
Saidoff, on the other hand, was to stand trial for the charges removed from Netanyahu, including the private catering, forging the number of participants, expenses for waiters, and the electrician.
However, in January a hearing was held for Sara Netanyahu. Since then, negotiations for a plea deal have been underway.
The indictment of the prime minister’s wife followed unsuccessful attempts to reach a resolution of the matter with prosecutors when Sara Netanyahu refused to agree to pay the residence for the value of the meals and to admit to the allegations against her.