Sharon Money Scandals Build on Prosecutor´s Desk

The State Prosecutor's office has received a police file which alleges that PM Sharon's family improperly received more than one million shekels from the Israel Land and Development (ILD) firm.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 16:14

Police investigators completed their probe and transferred the findings to the State Prosecution on Tuesday. The file contains suspicions that PM Ariel Sharon's Sycamore Ranch illegally received $325,000 in 1999 from ILD, headed by Ya'akov Nimrodi, in return for options to buy into the S. P. Hanegev Company, partly held by the Sharon family. Nimrodi's company did not exercise the options after they expired more than three years later, leaving the money in the pockets of the Sharon family ranch.

Attorney Ita Nachman from the State Prosecution's Central Region Office will determine if there is enough evidence to indict the prime minister's son, Gilad, and Nimrodi. Gilad Sharon exercised his right to stay silent during the lengthy police investigations.

ILD has denied any wrongdoing in the business dealing under investigation. The company clarified that Nimrodi and other company officials cooperated with the police and provided all requested documents.

Nimrodi's relationship with Sharon dates back to their combat days in the 1948 War of Independence. Nimrodi later worked in intelligence in Iran, and returned there in 1981 as a private entrepreneur to sell weapons. Sharon, as Defense Minster the following year, justified armed sales to Iran despite objections from American officials that Israel was violating an arms embargo against the Arab state. Israel maintained that it was selling domestic weapons and not American-made weapons.

Gilad's brother, Omri Sharon, has been indicted on other charges concerning illegal financial transactions, also in 1999. Earlier this year, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to charge Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the scandal, and instead pressed charges against Omri for setting up a fictitious company to transfer money to his father's 1999 Likud party primaries campaign.

Another twist in the investigations against the Sharon family was revealed on Wednesday. According to Haaretz newspaper, Gilad Sharon told businessman David Appel that someone had to be found to replace "their man" who was leaving the State of Israel's Land Administration. That quote is from a police wiretap on a conversation held when Ariel Sharon was Minister of Infrastructure.

Appel had long been under investigation for allegedly bribing Sharon, but Attorney General Mazuz last April decided not to indict him because of lack of evidence. Appel paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gilad Sharon for working on Greek Island development project back when Ariel Sharon was foreign minister. This has become known as the Greek Islands affair.

Appel, according to Haaretz, argued that he had been unfairly singled out in the investigation, which also covered charges of illegally influencing other government officials. He said that if the charges were true, others should have been charged.
Mazuz did not cite the conversation between Appel and Gilad Sharon when he closed the case against Appel.