The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted Thursday on fraud charges related to nearly $100,000 in costs for catering meals.
The indictment claims that between 2010 and 2013, Sara Netanyahu ordered meals from some of Jerusalem’s top chefs even though the prime minister’s household already had a full-time cook, The New York Times reported.
The indictment further accuses Sara Netanyahu of working with the staff of the official residence to cover up the fact that during the time period, the residence did have cooks. It states that she told them to engage in a cover-up “so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager,” according to Haaretz.
As a result, the indictment said, the cook was listed as part of the maintenance staff.
The investigation into the 15 dinners in question began in 2015 as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the lifestyle of Israel’s first couple.
“They’re dealing with the most important things in the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year, according to The Hill. “The procedure for replacing a light bulb, trays of food, the cup of tea that was served to her father, a righteous man, on his deathbed.”
In 2017, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said he would file an indictment against Sara Netanyahu.
Negotiations for a plea agreement collapsed when Netanyahu would not agree to repay the roughly $99,000 spent on the cooks and admit to the charges.
Attorneys for Netanyahu released a statement denying the charges against her, according to The Washington Post.
They called the indictment “absurd and delusional.”
“This is the first time in Israel and around the world that a leader’s wife is prosecuted for food in the trays. There was no fraud or breach of trust or any other offense,” the statement said. “The wife of the prime minister, who is not a public servant, did not even know the procedures, and she told the truth about it when asked in a polygraph test.”
The statement said household officials should bear any blame.
“The Netanyahu family is not the one who consumed most of the food and the trays, but many other people, including the household workers,” it said.
It is unclear if this indictment will have political fallout. In 1977, former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned when his wife, Leah, faced indictment. However, Benjamin Netanyahu is not expected to step down.
The case against Sara Netanyahu is not the only one that is brewing.
The Jerusalem Post has reported that an indictment against the prime minister is likely when a bribery investigation concludes in 2019.
Netanyahu’s trial is expected to start in the fall, and there is little expectation that even if she is convicted she will be sent to jail, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu served as Israel’s prime minister form 1996 to 1999 before returning to office in 2009.
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