TEL AVIV: An Israeli court Sunday convicted the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of fraudulently using state funds for meals, under a plea bargain which saw her admit to lesser charges.
Sara Netanyahu was found guilty of exploiting the mistake of another person and ordered to pay a fine and compensation, in a deal approved by Jerusalem magistrates’ court justice Avital Chen.
Netanyahu was also fined 10,000 shekels ($2,800) and ordered to reimburse the state a further 45,000 shekels, the latter of which she will pay in nine installments, at her request.
“The deal reached between the sides is worthy and appropriately reflects the deeds and their severity on the criminal level,” Chen said in his ruling.
The 60-year-old, a high-profile presence at her husband’s side throughout his long tenure in office, was initially charged in June 2018 with fraud and breach of trust for buying catered meals despite the presence of a cook at the minister’s official residence.
The amended indictment, approved Sunday, dropped the graft charges.
Netanyahu’s attorney Yossi Cohen told the court his client had already been heavily punished by the media.
“No other person could have withstood this (media persecution), this lady is made of steel,” Cohen added.
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 also 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.