Arbitration talks to settle a fraud case involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife have reportedly hit a wall over her rejection of prosecutors demand she return over $100,000 in state funds, Israeli television reported.
Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, were charged in June with fraud and breach of trust over allegations they misused some $100,000 in funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.
According to Channel 12 news, Sara Netanyahu agreed to prosecutors’ proposal to admit to lesser charges, but her lawyer informed them she would only agree to pay tens of thousands of shekels and not the full amount sought by prosecutors.
The network also reported Wednesday that she only agreed to confess to the charges after the general election on April 9.
Yossi Cohen, Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer, denied the report.
“This is an attempt to scuttle the arbitration process,” Cohen was quoted saying.
Previous efforts to settle the case out of court have failed, with Channel 13 reporting in January that prosecutors had rejected three separate arbitration proposals.
The proposals, put forward by arbitrator Judge Mordechai Kaduri, who is vice president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, called for Sara Netanyahu to admit some guilt and pay fines, but not be convicted of breach of trust or fraud, the report said.
One plan was for Sara Netanyahu to pay a fine of NIS 500,000 ($136,000) and with that the case would be closed. Another envisioned a fine of NIS 200,000 ($54,000) and her admitting to an offense of “taking advantage of another’s mistake” — but without a conviction.
The third option was for the prime minister’s wife to be convicted in a plea bargain of a lesser graft charge, pay a fine and receive a suspended sentence, the report said.
According to a Channel 12 report last month, prosecutors are at odds with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over the case, with the former seeking a conviction and the latter hoping to settle the charges through arbitration and thus avoid a drawn-out trial.
Sara Netanyahu’s trial is separate from her husband’s legal woes, which revolve around suspicions the prime minister accepted illicit gifts, took bribes and tried to arrange favors for media barons in exchange for positive press coverage.
Sara Netanyahu was a suspect in one of those cases, but prosecutors did not recommend she face charges.