Attorney: Nothing new in Kern case

Lawyer who first leaked affair doubts confiscated laptops contain evidence.

Police on Wednesday backed up a document submitted to court a day earlier which had for the first time stated that the National Fraud Squad had collected evidence indicating that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was allegedly bribed by Martin and James Schlaff - influential Austrian-Jewish businessmen. On Tuesday, police submitted an affidavit to court in response to a petition by James Schalff who asked the court to order the police to return to him laptop computers and cellular phones they had seized during his visit to Israel two weeks ago. In the affidavit, the police wrote: "During the investigation, href=""target="_blank"> evidence was found that points to the involvement of James Schlaff and his brother Martin in the transfer of $3 million to the prime minister's family. Part of the money was used to return illegal campaign contributions the prime minister received and had to return and part remained in the hands of the Sharon family." Senior officers said the National Fraud Squad was correct to use the word "evidence" and not suspicions. Sharon's associates downplayed the reports and said that the police did not really have evidence that could be used to indict the prime minister. "We have evidence to back up our suspicions against Schlaff," one officer said. "As to the use of the word 'evidence', the State Attorney's Office reviewed the affidavit before it was submitted to court." A day after police claimed it had new evidence indicating that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had allegedly received bribes from prominent Austrian businessmen James and Martin Schlaff, the attorney who first leaked the investigation of the affair in 2003 estimated that there was nothing new in the case. Liora Glatt-Berkovich said she did not think that computers police confiscated would reveal any incriminating information of an alleged bribe. "One must be very naive to believe that whoever offers a bribe would hold such information on his computer in Israel for years, waiting for police to come and find that information. It is clear to me that all evidence was destroyed long ago," she stated However, during an interview with Channel 1 Wednesday evening, Glatt-Berkovich said that regarding the Annex affair, she is "aware of concrete evidence connecting the prime minister to accepting bribes, but cannot tell the public at this time." Last November, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz decided to clear Sharon and Dov Weisglass, while indicting Omri Sharon and his friend Gabriel Manor. Mazuz wrote that he had not found evidence to indicate that Ariel Sharon knew about the existence of Annex Research. Sharon's closest aide Dov Weisglass established Annex Research in March 1999. Omri had Weisglass appoint Manor to head it. The company opened a bank account and began to receive money from three US-based organizations - The American- Israel Research Friendship Foundation, the Center for National Studies and International Relations and the College for National Studies. Altogether, the companies poured $1,484,950 into Annex Research. The reports stating that Israel Police has acquired new evidence against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Cyril Kern affair stirred up the whole political system, with most parties insisting the investigation be completed before the March 28 elections. While nearly all the politicians urged the police to complete the investigation before the elections, the police revealed that the deadline would most likely not be met. Still, police estimated that they would review the contents of the confiscated computers in the next few days.