German Report: Schlaff Tried to Bribe Ariel Sharon

The German weekly "Focus" reports that Austrian businessman and Jericho casino-owner Martin Schlaff tried to bribe PM Sharon into opening the casino earlier than planned.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 17:10


The German magazine embellished on similar reports in Austria that emerged last week by stating that the sums involved totaled $4.5 million. Schlaff allegedly funneled the money into Sharon family bank accounts in exchange for a decision to re-open the Jericho casino.

The Oasis Casino in Jericho is partly owned by Casino Austria, a partially Austrian government-owned company that is controlled by Schlaff and Arafat-crony Mohammed Rashid. The casino shut down in late 2000, a month after the PA started the Oslo War, and it has remained closed ever since. It was heavily damaged by Israeli military strength in retaliation for terrorist fire shot at Israeli forces from its roof shortly after it was closed.

Schlaff funneled the money to the Sharons, the reports state, in February 2002, 16 months after the casino was closed.

The Jericho casino depends on Israeli customers to turn a profit. An average of close to 2,900 people visited the casino daily before it closed – 99% of them Israelis. In 1999, it made a profit of $54 million.

It was earlier reported that Schlaff availed himself of a South African businessman - probably another friend of Sharon's, Cyril Kern - to transfer the money.

Though Focus reported that Schlaff "tried to" bribe Sharon, the Austrian reports had a slightly different version. Senior Austrian prosecutor Gerhard Yarush said that based on the evidence he has seen, "my conclusion is that it’s almost certain that Ariel Sharon took a bribe."

Though the story has now been publicized in Austria and Germany, the Israeli media have been shy about it. A computerized review
of Hebrew internet news sites of the past week show only two headlines on the story - Arutz-7, and NFC quoting The Jerusalem Post. Haaretz, Maariv, Yediot Acharonot, Army Radio and Israel Radio do not appear.