Prime Minister’s Wife Charged With Fraud Over Gourmet Dinners
Written by Yona Schnitzer/TPS on June 21, 2018
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issued an indictment against Sara Netanyahu on Thursday, charging the Prime Minister’s wife with fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.
Sara Netanyahu is accused of diverting roughly NIS 360,000 from state funds to go toward the purchasing of prepared meals from luxury restaurants for the Prime Minister’s residence under the false pretence that it does not employ a full time cook. She allegedly colluded with then-Prime Minister’s Office deputy director-general Ezra Seidoff, who is accused also of falsifying invoices to outside chefs on 15 separate instances in order to to circumvent limits on food spending.
The events took place between September 2010 and March 2013, when the two allegedly attempted to take advantage of a regulation that stated that if there is no cook in employment at the Prime Minister’s residence, food may be ordered from outside providers. Though a cook actually was employed at the residence during the time in question, the food orders were made under the false pretense that there was no cook in employment.
The investigations into Sara Netanyahu began in 2015, following the release of a State Comptroller’s Report that pointed out discrepancies in the Prime Minister’s residence budget. The prime minister’s wife was suspected of taking advantage of various loopholes in order to fund the Netanyahu family’s personal life.
Last September, Attorney General Mandelblit announced that Sara Netanyahu would be indicted pending a hearing, which took place in January. Following the hearing, negotiations took place over a plea bargain that would have seen Sara Netanyahu plea guilty to the allegations and pay a fine, however the deal fell through. Various reports claimed the sides failed to reach an agreement over the sum to paid, with the prime minister’s wife said to have been willing to pay only NIS 50,000 while Mandelblit is reported to have been holding out for a full reimbursement. Other reports claim that the reason the deal fell through was in fact new evidence provided by Nir Hefetz, the prime minister’s former advisor, who turned state’s witness in two of the corruption cases pending against him.