Israeli PM's wife goes on trial for fraud

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP file photo)
Updated 08 October 2018

Israeli PM's wife goes on trial for fraud

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife appeared in court Sunday for the start of her trial over alleged fraud and breach of trust, drawing renewed attention to the many scandals plaguing the prime minister and his family.
Sara Netanyahu has been charged with allegedly overspending roughly $100,000 on celebrity chefs at the prime minister’s official residence, even when there was a full-time chef on staff.
Mrs. Netanyahu appeared before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court wearing a dark jacket and white shirt. She flashed a nervous smile to a courtroom packed with reporters but made no remarks before the press was asked to leave.
Transcripts from police investigations have sporadically been leaked to the media, painting an unflattering picture of Netanyahu. In them she complains about the quality of food served at the prime minister’s residence and uses expletives to describe the staff.
Mrs. Netanyahu has long faced allegations of extravagant spending and abusive behavior. In 2016, a court ruled she abused a housekeeper and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Other former employees have also claimed mistreatment and accused her of charging the state for her private and lavish tastes, including pink champagne and other luxuries.
According to her indictment, Mrs. Netanyahu acted “to circumvent the rules and conditions” governing the prime minister’s official residence “in order to fraudulently obtain state funding for various expenses for the accused and her family that were not supposed to be financed in this manner.”
Netanyahu’s lawyers have argued she was oblivious to the regulations and that the meals were ordered by an assistant and served to visiting dignitaries.
If convicted, Mrs. Netanyahu could face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars for the most serious charge, though that appears unlikely.
The indictment is one of a series of scandals swirling around the prime minister and his family that threaten to solidify their reputation as overindulgent and out of touch with the Israeli people.
Police questioned Prime Minister Netanyahu for several hours on Friday as part of investigations into alleged corruption by the long-serving premier.
Israeli police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. In one case, the prime minister is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from a pair of billionaire friends. In another, he is accused of promoting regulations that provided hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to Israeli telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for positive media coverage.


Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 25 min 11 sec ago

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.