Sensing a public uproar, Cyril Kern, a key figure in an ongoing bribery investigation against Ariel Sharon, left the country earlier than planned on Wednesday after visiting the prime minister at Hadassah-University Hospital on Monday.
"I am delighted to see that he [Sharon] is on his way to recovery," Kern told The Jerusalem Post after landing in South Africa Wednesday afternoon. "Now I just can't wait for Arik to get out of the hospital."
Kern, a South African businessman and close friend of the Sharon family, flew to Israel on Monday to visit the hospitalized prime minister. Speaking to the Post last week before leaving for Israel, Kern said he planned to visit his "good old friend Sharon."
"I have been through a difficult couple of days," Kern said last Thursday describing his personal feelings since hearing about the prime minister's second stroke. "I feel the need to go see him and give my support to him and his family."
On Wednesday, right-wing activists petitioned the High Court of Justice and sent letters to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz demanding that police take advantage of Kern's visit to Israel and question him about the nature of several money transfers amounting to $4.5 million he made to the Sharon family.
Arriving in Israel on Monday in what was supposed to have been a secret visit, Kern, according to media reports, arranged in advance with Mazuz's office that he would not be detained for questioning during his visit. Kern has been questioned several times by South African authorities at the request of the Israel Police.
Last week, police submitted a document to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court and for the first time publicly announced their suspicions that Austrian-Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff was behind the Kern money transfers. The money, police suspect, was meant to serve as a bribe to the prime minister to advance Schlaff's business interests in Israel, including the Jericho Casino.
On Wednesday, far-right activist Baruch Marzel petitioned the High Court against Mazuz's decision to allow Kern to visit Israel without being questioned. "This is scandalous," Marzel said. "He can shed light on the investigation and there is no reason that he should be allowed to leave the country."
Likud Party Central Committee Member Haim Yativ also sent Mazuz a letter demanding that Kern be questioned immediately. Yativ accused Mazuz of "harming the security of the State of Israel" by allowing Kern to leave the country.
Justice Ministry officials denied reports that Mazuz had agreed to allow Kern to visit Israel without being questioned. Mazuz's assistant Ran Nezri sent a letter to Marzel on Wednesday claiming that while the police knew of Kern's trip, they decided to allow him to visit Sharon at the hospital and only then decide if he would be questioned.