Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits to misuse of public funds

First lady agrees deal with prosecutors over orders for hundreds of catered meals

Peter Stubley
Sunday 16 June 2019 11:42 BST
Sarah Netanyahu arrives at Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court on Sunday to enter her guilty plea to misusing state funds
Sarah Netanyahu arrives at Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court on Sunday to enter her guilty plea to misusing state funds (EPA)

The wife of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ordered to pay 55,000 shekels (£12,100) after she admitted misusing state funds to order hundreds of takeaway meals.

Sara Netanyahu avoided a prison sentence after agreeing a plea deal with prosecutors to settle allegations she fraudulently obtained around £80,000 in restaurant catering.

Under the agreement, the fraud charge was dropped and she pleaded guilty to the lesser criminal offence of intentionally exploiting another person’s mishandling of state money for her own benefit.

Ms Netanyahu, 60, smiled as she appeared in court on Sunday before the judge ratified the deal.

“Do you understand what you admitted to?” the judge asked.

“Yes, I do,” she replied.

Israel’s Ynet website published a photograph of what it said was a note from her husband, who was not in the court. “We will get through this, too. Be strong!!”, it said.

Prosecutors defended the plea deal by citing Mrs Netanyahu’s clean record, the public humiliation she has suffered as a result of the case and the time that has passed – up to nine years – since the crimes were committed.

Ms Netanyahu will pay the state 45,000 shekels (£9,900) in reimbursement and a 10,000 shekel (£2,200) fine.

A government employee charged along with Ms Netanyahu also reached an agreement with the prosecution and was fined 10,000 shekels.

Her husband is still embroiled in three corruption cases. In February, Israel’s attorney general said he intended to file fraud and bribery charges against Benjamin Netanyahu, pending a pre-trial hearing.

That session is set for early October, two weeks after a general election on 17 September. Mr Netanyahu won the vote in April but failed to form a government.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press

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