Sharon's son guilty in funds scandal

The son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pleaded guilty in an Israeli campaign funds scandal that could pose a challenge to the Israeli leader before expected early elections.

    Omri Sharon has been charged with fraud and perjury

    Omri Sharon, a Likud Party lawmaker and key adviser to his father, had previously said he would argue in his defence.

    He was accused on Tuesday of fraud, breach of trust and perjury - charges carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

    Although no charges were brought against the prime minister over the case, the scandal has embarrassed him at a time when he faces tough political battles.

    Allegations that shell companies were set up to funnel foreign donations to Ariel Sharon's successful 1999 race for the right-wing Likud party leadership fuelled political opposition to the prime minister.

    Illegal funding

    Foreign funding of political campaigns is illegal in Israel.

    The scandal has embarrassed 
    Sharon at a fragile political time

    Sharon had denied any wrongdoing in the funding case, saying his two sons alone handled financing for his 1999 primary campaign.

    Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz decided in February against indicting the prime minister, citing lack of evidence after a three-year investigation.

    Related charges against two of Sharon's former senior advisers were dropped.
     
    Sharon is expected to face early elections next year as a surprise leadership change in the Labour party, a key partner, has brought his ruling coalition to the verge of collapse.

    Elections are due in November 2006.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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