Netanyahu's wife admits criminal wrongdoing in catering case

2019-06-17 09:17
Israeli Prime Minister's wife Sara Netanyahu. (Francois Mori, AP, File)

Israeli Prime Minister's wife Sara Netanyahu. (Francois Mori, AP, File)

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The wife of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted to misuse of public funds and asked a Jerusalem court to approve a plea bargain convicting her of fraud and breach of trust.

Under the charges in an amended indictment, Sara Netanyahu would plead guilty to exploiting the mistake of another person and pay a fine along with compensation, but corruption charges against her would be dropped.

In a small room at the Jerusalem magistrates' court, packed with journalists, Netanyahu told the judge she was aware of the charges. Her lawyer and a prosecutor asked justice Avital Chen to accept the deal.

READ: Prosecutor charges Netanyahu's wife with fraud - justice ministry

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"As in every plea bargain, each side makes concessions, sometimes hard concessions," prosecutor Erez Padan said on Sunday.

"It is right and proper for the public interest to bring this case to an end."

"The prosecution is aware there isn't full correlation between the sum [agreed to be paid by Netanyahu] and the criminal offense, however in the framework of the legal procedure, a full correlation is not obligatory," added Padan.

The justice ministry said that under the deal, Netanyahu would be fined 10,000 shekels ($2,800) and reimburse the state a further 45,000 shekels.

'Punished by media'

Netanyahu's attorney Yossi Cohen told the court his client had already been heavily punished by the media.

"Four years of ugly leaks and denigrations" constituted "inhuman punishment.

"No other person could have withstood this, this lady is made of steel," AFP news agency reported him as saying.

Cohen added: "Netanyahu's blood was spilled with no mercy. She has children and a husband," reported Haaretz.

The first lady was initially charged in June 2018 with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly misusing state funds to pay for catered meals costing $100 000, by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the prime minister's official residence.

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The 60-year-old has been a high-profile presence at her husband's side throughout his long tenure in office.

She has also faced accusations of mistreating staff. In 2016 a court awarded some $47 000 in damages to a former housekeeper who accused the couple of repeated workplace abuse.

Separately, Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the months ahead.

He is reportedly seeking legislation that would result in him being granted immunity.

He is up for re-election again in September 17 polls, the second to be held this year after he was unable to form a coalition following an April vote.

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