22 Jun 2018

Israeli PM's wife charged with fraud

8:47 am on 22 June 2018

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with fraud relating to the alleged misuse of state funds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara wait for the arrival of Ethiopian Prime Minister and his wife ahead of a welcoming ceremony at the PM's office in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Gali TIBBON

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu Photo: AFP or licensors

Sara Netanyahu is charged with misusing 359,000 shekels ($NZ145,000) for catering services at the prime minister's official residence.

She is also charged with a breach of trust following a police inquiry, the justice ministry said.

Mrs Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Her lawyers described the indictment as absurd and delusional.

On Thursday, she was charged along with Ezra Seidoff, a former deputy director general of the prime minister's office.

The Jerusalem District Attorney's Office said the decision to indict both Mrs Netanyahu and Mr Seidoff was made "after reviewing all evidence and weighing all circumstances of the case".

Last year, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he was considering charging Mrs Netanyahu over the allegations following a long-running investigation, which has been the subject of intense speculation in the Israeli media.

What are the allegations?

According to the details of the indictment, Mrs Netanyahu and Mr Seidoff are suspected of involvement in expenses claims made between September 2010 and March 2013 for food delivered to the prime minister's official residence and for hiring private chefs.

The expenses claims were said to have been made while covering up the fact that the residence also employed a cook. State funding for both is not allowed.

A statement from the attorney general's office last September said: "In this way, hundreds of meals from restaurants and chefs were fraudulently received in the order of 359,000 shekels."

Mr Netanyahu has reacted angrily to what he has long viewed as a witch-hunt against his high-profile family, driven by political opponents.

"Sara Netanyahu is a strong and honourable woman and there has never been any fault in her actions," a statement on the prime minister's Facebook page said.

Mrs Netanyahu's lawyers said there was no fraud or breach of trust, and she had not been aware of the procedures.

The person who ordered the food and trays was the former household manager, now the state's witness, they said.

- BBC

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