Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was formally charged Thursday with fraud and breach of public trust in a long-running corruption case involving the use of outside caterers in the official prime minister’s residence, state prosecutors said in a statement.
JERUSALEM — The wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was charged Thursday with misusing some $100,000 in public funds to order lavish meals from celebrity chefs, dealing an embarrassing blow to the country’s first family and drawing fresh attention to a series of separate corruption investigations plaguing the prime minister.
Although the indictment against Sara Netanyahu did not directly affect the prime minister, it ended a period of political victories that had bolstered the Israeli leader and distracted attention from his legal woes. Her lawyers denounced the charges as “baseless and delusional.”
Sara Netanyahu has long faced allegations of abusive behaviour and living extravagantly. In 2016, a court ruled she abused an employee and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Other former employees have accused her of mistreatment, charges the Netanyahus have vehemently denied.
In Thursday’s indictment, the Justice Ministry said Sara Netanyahu was charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly overspending roughly $100,000 on private meals at the prime minister’s official residence, even when there was a full-time chef on staff. A former deputy director of the official residence was also charged.
Sara Netanyahu acted “to circumvent the rules and conditions” governing the official residence “in order to fraudulently obtain state funding for various expenses for the accused and her family that were not supposed to be financed in this manner,” the indictment said.
It was not immediately clear when her trial would begin. If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars for the most serious charge, though that appeared unlikely