The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be indicted within days for alleged misuse of state funds and aggravated fraud, according to the country’s press.
Sara Netanyahu, 59, is accused of misusing around $100,000 in public money on catered meals from expensive restaurants ordered to the prime minister’s residence, despite having an official chef at the house on the government’s payroll.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Israeli leader Netanyahu in September that he would likely bring fraud charges against his wife, alleging that she had created a “false appearance” that no chef was employed at the residence.
That indictment is expected this week, according to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.
If no chef is working full-time at the residence, the prime minister and his family are able to bill the state for food ordered to their home. Mr Mandelblit charged that Mrs Netanyahu and former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff sought to “sidestep the guidelines”.
Reports in the Israeli media suggested that an indictment was forthcoming after Mrs Netanyahu’s lawyers and state prosecutors failed to agree a deal to close the case.
Aggravated fraud carries a prison sentence of five years in Israel.
The expected indictment comes after the Netanyahu family’s former media adviser Nir Hefetz turned state witness and agreed to testify about her conduct to state prosecutors.
Mrs Netanyahu has so far declined to agree to state prosecutors’ conditions for closing the case through a plea deal, reportedly including her paying back a large percentage of the sum she is accused of misappropriating and admitting to the majority of the accusations levelled against her.
Her legal team has reportedly asked to renew talks but Israeli media reports suggest that this will not delay any indictment.
While she has been portrayed as someone with expensive tastes in the Israeli media, Netanyahu’s wife is also known for her fiery temper. In January, a 2009 recording emerged of her berating her publicist over coverage that did not list her achievements in education to her satisfaction.
“I’m an educated woman!” she can be heard shouting at the publicist. “Psychologist! B.-A! M.-A! That’s it!”
The case is just one of four corruption probes levelled against the Netanyahu family. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in multiple cases. One alleges that Netanyahu passed regulation beneficial to an Israeli telecoms company in return for favourable coverage.
Police have recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery in two other cases, one in which he is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from businessmen and another in which he is accused of offering a quid pro quo deal to cut the circulation of Israel’s biggest newspaper, Israel Hayom, in return for favourable coverage in another daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, known to be critical of him.
Israel’s opposition figures called for Netanyahu to resign when police recommended that he be indicted in February. But his allies have decried the allegations of an attempted coup of the man who is Israel’s second longest-serving leader.
Mr Mandelblit is yet to make his final decision on an indictment for Netanyahu, but one for his wife appears to be edging closer with every day.