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State won’t file civil lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu in illegal catering case

Attorney general adopts opinion of state prosecution that notes PM’s wife admitted wrongdoing and says there would be difficulties in getting back cash

Sara Netanyahu at a voting station in Jerusalem, during national elections, on March 23, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Sara Netanyahu at a voting station in Jerusalem, during national elections, on March 23, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

A civil lawsuit will not be filed against Sarah Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, in order to obtain from her cash the state lost when she illegally procured catering services, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Thursday.

State prosecutors had advised Mandelblit not to sue, noting that Netanyahu had already admitted her guilt in a criminal case two years ago and that there was little hope of getting back the missing money.

Netanyahu was convicted in 2019 in a plea bargain that saw her confess to “taking unfair advantage of a mistake.”

The agreement saw her escape a conviction of aggravated fraud but admit to the lesser charge. She was ordered to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest to be returned to the state.

However, the plea bargain also allowed for the state to file a civil lawsuit in order to get the rest of the NIS 175,000 prosecutors claimed she had spent on the meals.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at an event at Bar Ilan University, March 4, 2020. (Flash90)

In his announcement, Mandelblit said he was adopting the position of acting state attorney Amit Aisman alongside legal experts that “there is no need to file a civil lawsuit against Netanyahu under the circumstances of the case.”

“In the context of the criminal case. according to which it was not possible to separate the official hospitality expenses from the private expenses, it is questionable whether within the framework of a civil proceeding it would be possible to repay the sum in part or in full. Therefore, the civil proceeding is expected to bring limited benefit to the state, if at all,” Mandelblit stated.

Mandelblit added that there are “legal difficulties in conducting the proceedings, including allegations of [the case not being within the] statute of limitations, due to the incidents dating back to September 2010, more than a decade ago, as well as the fact that the criminal case already ended in a plea bargain.”

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaves the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem on June 16, 2019, following her conviction of fraudulently using state funds for meals. Netanyahu was found guilty of exploiting the mistake of another person and ordered to pay a fine and compensation. (Gali Tibbon/AFP)

Sara Netanyahu’s case is separate from her husband’s legal woes, in which the prime minister is charged with accepting illicit gifts, taking bribes, and attempting 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 ultimately recommend she face charges.

Benjamin Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police, and prosecutors to remove him from office.

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