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Sharon scandal grows

by: Sonja Pace - Last updated: 2004-03-29

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's son to turn over documents in corruption scandals that loom as major threats to the Israeli leader. The ruling comes a day after Israel's chief prosecutor recommended that the prime minister be indicted in one of the cases.

The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by Gilad Sharon that he not be required to hand over tapes and documents involving two corruption and bribery scandals.

The lawyer for the prime minister's son said his client will comply with the court ruling, but that it would take time to get the documents.

One case involves the so-called Greek Island Affair of the late 1990's, in which businessman and developer David Appel is alleged to have paid Gilad Sharon hundreds of thousands of dollars to help promote a tourism scheme on a Greek island. Ariel Sharon was foreign minister at the time.

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper cites a wiretapped telephone conversation between Mr. Appel and Ariel Sharon in which Mr. Appel says your son is going to make a lot of money. The paper quotes Mr. Sharon as suggesting he would use his influence to help the developer when he said, the island is in our hands.

According to Ha'aretz, that conversation helped convince state prosecutor Edna Arbel to recommend that Ariel Sharon and his son be indicted in the case. The final decision on the matter now rests with the attorney general.

David Appel was indicted in the case earlier this year.

The allegations are already causing problems for the prime minister. Josef Paritzky, who serves as infrastructure minister in the Sharon cabinet, says he believes the Israeli leader will have no choice but to resign if he is indicted.

"If the attorney general will decide to indict the prime minister, the prime minister has to resign. He cannot stay in office. He cannot remain in office. He cannot fight for his innocence and run the government at the same time," says Mr. Paritzky. "It's simply impossible."

Mr. Paritzsky also says that if Mr. Sharon is indicted and does not resign, then his Shinui party will pull out of the government.

Ariel Sharon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said he would not resign.

The other corruption scandal involves both of Mr. Sharon's sons, Gilad and Omri, and a $1.5 million loan from a South African businessman to both men. That loan was allegedly used to cover illegal contributions to Ariel Sharon's 1999 election campaign. That case is still under investigation.

Mr. Sharon has also denied any wrongdoing in this scandal.

The growing scandals come at a politically sensitive time for Prime Minister Sharon - as he is formulating and promoting his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and possibly parts of the West Bank, in light of a continued stalemate in peace talks with the Palestinians. There is currently wide public support for the plan, but some analysts say that could be eroded if public confidence in the prime minister erodes over the scandals.

Story supplied by VOAnews