Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s former prime minister, has been convicted of illegally misusing thousands of shekels of public funds on lavish meals.
A Jerusalem court on Sunday accepted a plea bargain in which Netanyahu agreed to admit to a lesser charge than the original fraud accusations. She will pay about $15,000 in fines and reimbursements to the state.
The sentencing ended one of the long-running cases against the family. Benjamin Netanyahu still faces the prospect of three corruption indictments later this year that may even result in a prison sentence.
According to the original indictment against Sara Netanyahu, of fraud and breach of trust, she and a government employee were accused of spending roughly $100,000 on catering from expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013, despite having a in-house cook provided by the state.
In the settlement, she admitted to taking unfair advantage of another person’s mishandling of state money and reduced the overspending charge to $50,000. Former caretaker Ezra Saidoff also reached an agreement with the prosecution and was fined $3,000.
Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, told the court his client had already been punished by public humiliation in the closely watched investigation. “Four years of ugly leaks and denigrations” constituted “inhuman punishment”
The 60-year-old child psychologist has been a controversial presence at her husband’s side throughout his political career. In addition to the fraud case, she has faced mistreatment accusations from employees and was described in a newspaper as “Israel’s Marie Antoinette”
In 2017, Netanyahu was ordered to pay tens of thousands of pounds in damages in a dispute with two former domestic staff who accused her of bullying. She faces a third lawsuit from an employee who alleged staff were treated like “slaves”.
Benjamin Netanyahu is entangled in a series of more severe corruption investigations and is due to appear at a pre-trial hearing in October after Israel’s attorney general announced his intention to indict in all three cases.
He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
One case, called Case 1,000, involves allegations of receiving gifts, including cigars, champagne and jewelry, from billionaires, among them the Australian casino operator James Packer, allegedly in exchange for favors.
In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country’s top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favorable coverage.
The third and most damning, Case 4,000, involves allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecoms provider Bezeq in exchange for positive stories on an online news website it owns.
Only a election win for Netanyahu could have been portrayed domestically as a lifeline to block the graft cases as some of his parliamentary allies have suggested they might back laws to grant him immunity.
The Guardian / ABC Flash Point News 2019.