Israeli prosecutors mull indicting Sharon

Israeli prosecutors are considering whether to indict Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after a court charged a businessman with trying to bribe him in the 1990s.

    The controversy could spell trouble for the Israeli PM

    Prosecutors will decide within months whether to charge Sharon, said a justice ministry source on Wednesday.

    A charge against the premier would almost certainly force him from office. Sharon's spokesman had no immediate comment.


    An Israeli court indicted property developer David Appel
    earlier on Wednesday on charges of trying to bribe Sharon when he was foreign minister in the late 1990s, sparking opposition calls for his resignation.
       
    Sharon, 75, has denied any wrongdoing in a string of
    corruption scandals that have failed to seriously dent his
    popularity.
       
    But mounting legal troubles could threaten his support in
    Israel and weaken his hand in seeking an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sharon, if indicted, would likely be charged along with his son, Gilad, and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a close ally in the ruling Likud party.
       
    "The state attorney's office will take from a few weeks to a
    few months to decide whether or not charges will be brought
    against Sharon, Olmert and Gilad on the Greek island affair,"
    the justice ministry source said, referring to a real estate
    deal. 

    Greek affair

    The bribery-episode that has come to be known as the "Greek Island affair" took place in the late 1990s when Sharon was the foreign minister in the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Property developer Appel was planning a tourism project on a Greek island for which he needed the necessary authorisation from the Greek authorities.

    The indictment said Appel sought Sharon and Olmert's help in securing the Greek go-ahead by trying to bankroll their campaigns for the Likud party's leadership.

    Appel has been charged with offering $3 million to Gilad in payment for consultancy services on the Greek island project, though it was not certain whether the money was accepted.

    Analysts said that while the indictment against Appel would
    tarnish Sharon's image, it posed no direct threat to his power
    because prosecutors had not presented any evidence showing he knowingly accepted money for political favours.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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