Ehud Barak's wife heads to court over illegal foreign cleaner

Charges brought: Nili Priel

Charges brought: Nili Priel

In a rare move, the Population and Immigration Authority will press charges against the wife of Defence Minister Ehud Barak over allegations that she employed an illegal foreign worker as a cleaner at their home in Tel Aviv.

The illegal employment was revealed last year and following intense public criticism, Mr Barak's wife, Nili Priel, admitted the charge and announced that she was prepared to pay a fine. The decision to press charges this week at the Tel Aviv Labor Court was made after the authorities were accused of going easy on senior officials and politicians who were caught employing foreign workers for housework.

The cleaner, Philippine national Virginia Navarro, received a permit to work in Israel as a geriatric care-giver but took to cleaning houses for extra income. She said in interviews that she was well treated by the Baraks but agreed to testify against them in return for keeping her work visa.

Ms Priel could receive a fine of up to 100,000 shekels if found guilty as charged. Officials in the immigration authority acknowledged off-record that, while hundreds of Israelis are caught each month employing foreign workers illegally, and let off with just a fine, there was no choice but to press charges against Ms Priel due to the publicity of the case.

In a separate development, the Justice Ministry announced this week that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be indicted on charges of bribe-taking, pending a hearing. Mr Olmert is one of 18 defendants in the Holyland case which was described by police as the "biggest corruption case in the history of Israel."

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 17 2011