Israeli PM's wife charged with fraud, breach of trust

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening of a special exhibit on Jewish presence in Jerusalem at the United Nations Headquarters in New York

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening of a special exhibit on Jewish presence in Jerusalem at the United Nations Headquarters in New York

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with fraud relating to the alleged misuse of state funds.

The long-anticipated charges were announced by Israel's justice ministry on Thursday. This is in violation of rules that prohibit ordering meals from outside the residence when a cook is employed, which Netanyahu reportedly tried to hide.

Sara Netanyahu, [left] the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Prosecutors claim that Sara Netanyahu conspired with a senior official at the residence to hide the fact that the meals were not eligible for reimbursement. For years, she has been accused of leading an extravagant lifestyle.

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu pictured together in Milan.

The indictment is a major escalation in a lengthy series of criminal investigations involving the Netanyahu family, which have focused on allegations of bribery, graft and fraud.

Details of the case were revealed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in September. The Israeli leader and his family have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu and his family members are also suspected of receiving 1 million shekels ($285,000, €240,000) worth of luxury cigars, champagne and jewelry from wealthy personalities in exchange for financial or personal favors.

He also faces suspicions of government favours that allegedly saw regulatory breaks go to Israel's largest telecom firm Bezeq, in return for favourable coverage of him and his wife by a news website.

Despite his troubles, opinion polls suggest Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party would remain the largest in parliament if elections scheduled for November 2019 were held now.

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