Israel PM says fraud charges against wife ‘absurd’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here in a March 8, 2006 picture with his wife Sara, has said fraud charges against her are "absurd"

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday dismissed fraud charges brought against his wife as “absurd” and said they were based on an “illegal” administrative ruling.

On Thursday the Jerusalem district prosecutor filed charges against Sara Netanyahu, accusing her of fraud and breach of trust after a lengthy probe into allegations she misused state funds to claim for delivery meals costing $100,000.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Netanyahu blasted the charges.

“This week absurdity hit a new record,” Netanyahu said in the Hebrew-language video.

“For the first time in history the wife of a leader was charged over meals, some of which were served to official guests and even heads of state,” he said.

The justice ministry on Thursday said Sara Netanyahu was accused of falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier’s official residence and ordering “hundreds of meals from outside caterers at public expense”.

From 2010 to 2013 she, her family and guests received “fraudulently from the state hundreds of prepared meals (each including a number of courses) to the value of 359,000 shekels ($99,700)”, an indictment read.

Netanyahu said the “most absurd thing about the indictment is that it is based on an illegal administrative ruling which was not approved by the Knesset’s (parliament’s) finance committee”.

His wife, who turns 60 in November, has denied any wrongdoing.

Her lawyers have dismissed the charges as “delusional”.

The trial, which could run for months, is to be held in the Jerusalem magistrates court, with the prosecution requesting a panel of three judges due to the “public sensitivity” of the case.

Sarah Netanyahu’s legal woes come as the prime minister himself is under the microscope on suspicion of a series of corruption offences.