Israeli PM Netanyahu's wife charged with fraud


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu, was indicted for misusing state funds, Israel's Justice Ministry said Thursday.

Although the prime minister is not implicated in this case, the charges against his wife could have far-reaching consequences for his political standing and appear likely to damage his public image. The prosecution alleges that the prime minister's wife ordered that the cook be listed at the residence as a maintenance staff person.

The allegations announced past year are that she and an aide falsely declared there were no cooks available at the prime minister's official residence and ordered from outside caterers at public expense.

Sara Netanyahu has long faced allegations of abusive behavior and living extravagantly.

A statement from Sara Netanyahu's lawyers posted on the prime minister's official Facebook page called the indictment "baseless and delusional". Other former employees have accused her of mistreatment, charges the Netanyahus have vehemently denied.

If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars, though that seemed unlikely.

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The indictment follows unsuccessful attempts to settle the matter outside court, with Sara Netanyahu refusing to pay back the amount she used for the meals and admit the allegations against her.

Investigators alleged that Sara Netanyahu moved to hide the employment of the cook at the residence, and that she knew ordering the meals violated the rules.

Last week Netanyahu, who is seeking a fourth term, was quizzed by police as part of a corruption probe that allegedly saw him receive favourable media coverage.

Sara Netanyahu's extravagant living has always been a topic of controversy in the country, and husband Benjamin still faces a number of police investigations into alleged corruption, the AP reported. Netanyahu is suspected of promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the company in return for more favourable coverage of the Netanyahu family on the telecom company's influential news site.

Details of the case were revealed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in September.