Sara Netanyahu charged with fraud and breach of trust
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was served a slew of fraud charges Thursday in the so-called “Prepared Food Affair,” for misusing public funds to order catered meals at their official Jerusalem residence, officials said.
Netanyahu, 59, instructed staff to order meals worth a total of 350,000 shekels – almost $100,000 — from gourmet eateries between 2010 and 2013, while falsely stating no cooks were on duty at the residence, according to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
She and Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, were charged with aggravated fraudulent receiving of an item or items, fraud and breach of trust, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Investigators gathered evidence that Netanyahu ordered that the employment of a cook be hidden and that she was aware that ordering outside meals with cooks on staff violated regulations.
She ordered employees to conceal the fact that cooks were employed at the residence “so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager,” according to the indictment.
According to prosecutors, Netanyahu ordered that the cooks be listed as maintenance workers to cover up her half-baked ruse.
In addition, invoices to chefs who were brought in from outside were falsified 15 times in order to circumvent limits on how much could be paid toward outside cooks, according to the indictment, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The prime minister — who himself is mired in a series of corruption probes during his fourth term as the Israeli leader — called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded.
Bibi — who was not named in the food fiasco — also described the allegations against him and his wife as a media witch hunt.
The Jerusalem Post reported that it had learned about two weeks ago that an indictment was imminent, but it was delayed amid efforts to reach a plea bargain.
Netanyahu’s attorneys offered to return some of the funds she is accused of obtaining fraudulently and to take public responsibility — as long as she would not be slapped with criminal charges.
The indictment also was delayed from May after Nir Hefetz, a former close adviser to the Netanyahus, provided new evidence against Sara Netanyahu.
In January, her lawyer Yossi Cohen told the Jerusalem Post that Meni Naftali – the chief maintenance superintendent at the time — and other residence managers like him, not Sara, are responsible for food orders.
When then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s wife, Leah, was about to be indicted in 1977, he resigned because of the scandal over an illegal bank account.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not expected to step down amid his wife’s legal troubles – but the indictment damages him politically, the Jerusalem Post reported.
With Post wires