Israeli PM's wife charged with fraud for $100K worth of takeaway orders

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Justice Ministry says Sara Netanyahu is suspected of misusing official funds for gourmet restaurant meals ordered to family's official residence

A spokesman said Sara Netanyahu has an undeserved reputation for imperiousness (AFP)
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Thursday 21 June 2018 15:11 UTC
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, was charged on Thursday with fraud and breach of trust over alleged misuse of state funds, the Justice Ministry said.

Suspicions included the misuse of nearly $100,000 in official funds for meals supplied by gourmet restaurants to the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, the ministry said in statement.

A draft of Netanyahu's indictment claims that she told staff at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem to order meals that totalled around $96,000 between 2010 and 2013, according to a report in Israeli daily Haaretz - averaging around $24,000 a year in take-out meals.

In comparison, 2014 data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that Israeli households spend on average $7,600 a year on food.

Her instructions, according to the indictment, violated rules which bar those living at the residence from ordering meals when a cook was on staff.

According to the indictment, the meals ordered included everything from sushi to Italian to Moroccan dishes.

Meals also came from Cavalier, described by reviewers on Trip Advisor as "the only notable" French restaurant in Jerusalem before it closed last year, and from the Sheraton Plaza restaurant, then led by chef Shalom Kadosh.

Kadosh was the first Israeli to join the prestigious "Club des Chefs des Chefs" list of those who cook for monarchs and heads of state.

Investigators have evidence that shows that Sara Netanyahu sought to conceal the employment of a cook at their home and knew that ordering the meals violated rules, Haaretz reported.

Ezra Saidoff, the former deputy director general of the prime minister's office, was also charged in the same case on Thursday.

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During negotiations with Netanyahu last month, prosecutors reportedly offered to close the case if she paid back the cost of the meals and admitted to the charges, but she turned down the offer.

The prime minister, who himself is embroiled in a series of corruption investigations, has called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded.

Sara Netanyahu, 59, has inspired a multitude of headlines in the past over what family spokesmen call an undeserved reputation for imperiousness.

This isn't the first time the Netanyahus have been at the centre of gastronomic controversy.

In 2013, revelations that Netanyahu's household had budgeted over $2,000 annually on ice cream caused a media storm in Israel.