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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Avoids Charges in Funding Case; Son Indicted
Yahoo News ^ | 2/17/05 | Megan Goldin

Posted on 02/17/2005 5:36:10 AM PST by Libloather

Sharon Avoids Charges in Funding Case; Son Indicted
1 hour, 38 minutes ago
By Megan Goldin

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's attorney general decided not to file charges against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a campaign funding scandal but indicted his son on Thursday, the Justice Ministry said.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz closed a three-year investigation of Sharon, saying there was insufficient evidence of involvement in setting up shell companies to funnel foreign donations to his 1999 primary campaign. Foreign funding of political campaigns is illegal in Israel.

An indictment of Sharon could have jeopardised his "disengagement" plan after parliament on Wednesday removed a major hurdle by approving compensation to Jewish settlers to be evacuated from occupied land in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

While Sharon emerged unscathed, his son and close adviser Omri, 40, was indicted on criminal charges including fraud, breach of trust and perjury. A legal expert told Israel Radio he could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Sharon had denied any wrongdoing in the funding case, saying his two sons alone handled financing for his 1999 primary campaign for leadership of the right-wing Likud party. Sharon's sons had remained silent on the scandal.

"The attorney general decided to close due to insufficient evidence the investigation as matters relate to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," the ministry said in a statement.

Cases were also dropped against two of his former senior advisers, Dov Weisglass and Uri Shani.

Prosecutors will have to ask the Knesset to lift parliamentary immunity for Omri Sharon, a member of the assembly, to put him on trial.

Sharon and his sons also face a separate investigation into allegations that a $1.5 million loan from a South African businessman was used as collateral to repay alleged illicit contributions to his primary race.

Last June, Mazuz dropped a long-running bribery case against Sharon that had threatened to topple him, citing lack of evidence, despite the chief prosecutor's recommendation to indict him.

Investigators had looked into whether Sharon, as foreign minister in the 1990s, had used his influence to help a developer win approval for an Aegean resort.

Israeli prime ministers and their advisers have frequently come under investigation for alleged financial infractions but no premier has ever been charged while in office.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: ariel; avoids; case; charges; funding; indicted; israel; minister; prime; sharon; son

1 posted on 02/17/2005 5:36:12 AM PST by Libloather
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