Tel Aviv [Israel]: Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly, reached a plea deal with the state prosecutors on Wednesday over allegations she breached public trust and misused state funds.
The plea deal, which avoids an extended corruption trial against her in the so-called prepared food affair, however, charges Netanyahu with reimbursement of NIS 55,000 (USD 15,210) to the state, The Times of Israel reported.
In last June, Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, were charged with fraud and breach of trust for spending USD 100,000 of state funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.
The residence is not permitted to order in prepared food if a chef is present. The two allegedly misrepresented the chef’s presence between September 2010 and March 2013 in order to claim state funds to order meals.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had been eager from the start to avoid a criminal trial, drawing up a plea bargain proposal for Netanyahu even before announcing charges.
However, with the prosecution demanding a criminal conviction, and Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen holding out against it, negotiations under Judge Mordechai Kaduri, vice president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, dragged on for months.
Netanyahu reportedly agreed to admit to the downgraded charges but refused to pay anything more than tens of thousands of shekels.
According to a Channel 12 news report earlier this year, Netanyahu also refused to confess to the charges until after the general election on April 9, an allegation denied by her lawyer.
Sara Netanyahu’s trial is separate from her husband’s legal charges, which revolve around suspicions that the prime minister had accepted illicit gifts, took bribes and tried to arrange favours for media barons in exchange for positive media coverage.
The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing, and say they are the victims of a political witch hunt driven by the media and the courts.