Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife goes on trial in fraud case

An Israeli F-16 warplane takes off to a mission in Lebanon from an air force base in northern Israel in

An Israeli F-16 warplane takes off to a mission in Lebanon from an air force base in northern Israel in

The fraud trial of Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opened in Jerusalem on Sunday, turning a new page in the long saga of corruption allegations against the Netanyahus that, for now, have not derailed the political power couple.

She was charged in June with fraud and breach of trust and of aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods.

The defendant was accused of embezzlement of budget funds in the amount of 100 thousand dollars on the star chefs at the official residence of the Prime Minister, according to DW. Other former employees have also claimed mistreatment and accused her of charging the state for her private and lavish tastes, including pink champagne and other luxuries.

From 2010 to 2013, she, her family and guests received "fraudulently from the state hundreds of prepared meals", the indictment read.

The meals allegedly came from a number of well-known restaurants in Jerusalem, including an Italian restaurant, a Middle Eastern grill joint and a sushi restaurant. Prosecutors requested for the case to be tried by a panel of three judges, rather than just one per typical trials.

The trial was originally scheduled to start in July but was postponed for reasons that were not made public.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to ease tensions with Russia since the incident in which Syria downed a Russian spy plane during an attempt to retaliate against Israeli aircraft. He denies all allegations of wrongdoing, and is not required to stand down unless convicted.

But the case has again turned the spotlight on the Netanyahu family and past allegations of misbehaviour. In 2016, a court ruled she abused a housekeeper and awarded the man €36,000 in damages.

"A short time ago I spoke with President Putin", Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

The legal woes have garnered intense, and sometimes lurid, attention from the media.

A statement from her lawyers on Sunday said the food had been ordered against her will.

Benjamin Netanyahu testified that the story was a "ridiculous" fabrication.

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