Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Israeli PM’s wife fined for misusing state funds

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:33 AM

A Jerusalem magistrate court on Sunday sentenced Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to pay a fine of more than $15,000 for misusing state funds. The sentencing 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 Sara Netanyahu had misused some $100,000 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 saw her admit to 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, Sara Netanyahu agreed to pay $2,800 in fines and hand the remaining $12,500 back to the state. The settlement also reduced the overspending charge to $50,000.

However, 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.

Benjamin 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.