In an expected move on Thursday, Israeli First Lady Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was charged with fraud and breach of trust.
Known as the “Residence Affair,” the charges stem from an investigation into Ms. Netanyahu’s alleged misuse of state funds to pay for gourmet meals delivered to the prime minister’s residence between 2010 and 2013.
A press release issued by the State’s Attorney’s office read:
“After checking the evidence and considering the circumstances, the Attorney General decided to recommend to adopt the opinion of the Jerusalem State Attorney and reject the claims put forward by Mrs. Netanyahu’s power of attorney during the hearing and put her on trial for the offences attributed to her.”
According to charges filed by Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, Ms. Netanyahu conspired with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general at the Prime Minister’s Office, to conceal the fact meals were delivered to the residence, despite the Netanyahus employing a full-time chef.
Authorities say on 15 occasions, Ms. Netanyahu pressured Saidoff and house staff to falsify expense reports submitted to the government and ordered staff not to reveal the alleged fraud.
The alleged fraud is believed to be valued at ₪393,000, equal to $100,000.
Denying “fraud, breach of trust, or any offense” in a Facebook post, attorneys for Ms. Netanyahu described the allegations as “ridiculous and bizarre.”
The charges were filed Thursday following unsuccessful attempts by prosecutors to settle the affair outside of court, with Ms. Netanyahu declining to repay the government for the meals.
The embarrassing charges arrive at a difficult time for Mr. Netanyahu, who faces four corruption probes, involving gifts for influence and the purchase of submarines from Germany. This isn’t the first time the prime minister’s wife has been in legal trouble either, as the first lady was found guilty of abusing an employee and ordered to pay $42,000 restitution in 2016.
Mr. Netanyahu has long denied wrongdoing, declaring the probes partisan witch hunts.
If convicted, Ms. Netanyahu is not expected to serve time, although a guilty verdict could mean she would serve up to five years behind bars.
[Jerusalem Post] [ABC News] [Photo courtesy JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]