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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara convicted for misuse of state funds

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel Jun 16, 2019, 03.11 PM (IST)

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.

Earlier, Sara Netanyahu had asked the Jerusalem court to approve a plea bargain convicting her of fraudulently using state funds for meals.

Under the charges in an amended indictment, Sara Netanyahu would plead guilty to exploiting the mistake of another person and pay a fine along with compensation, but graft charges against her would be dropped.

In a small room at the Jerusalem magistrates' court, packed with journalists, Netanyahu told the judge she was aware of the charges. Her lawyer and a prosecutor asked justice Avital Chen to accept the deal.

"As in every plea bargain, each side makes concessions, sometimes hard concessions," prosecutor Erez Padan said.

"It is right and proper for the public interest to bring this case to an end."

Netanyahu's attorney Yossi Cohen told the court his client had already been heavily punished by the media.

"Four years of ugly leaks and denigrations" constituted "inhuman punishment", he said.

"No other person could have withstood this, this lady is made of steel," Cohen added.

Story highlights

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