Police: Sharon's sons mediated bribery transfers for ex-PM

Investigation ends in recommendation that brothers should be indicted; however, evidence against them incomplete, investigators concede.

Omri sharon triple chin  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Omri sharon triple chin
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The sons of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, Omri and Gilad, should be indicted for mediating bribe transfers sent from billionaire Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff to ex-premier Ariel Sharon, police announced on Tuesday, marking the end of a decade-long investigation.
At the same time, police stressed, the evidence against the Sharon brothers was incomplete because Schlaff had evaded questioning throughout the investigation.
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“We have a bribery case in which the bribes giver refused to be questioned, and the receiver is not with us,” a police source told The Jerusalem Post. “Although the picture is clear, there are parts in this puzzle that will never be put together.”
The investigation was launched in 2001 and headed by the National Fraud Unit.
Suspicions centered on funds transferred to Gilad and Omri in 2002. The funds were ostensibly sent by Schlaff in two installments – one as a loan, and the second as payment for a consultant service provided by Gilad Sharon.
But police believe the money was really transferred for the purpose of allowing former prime minister Ariel Sharon to pay off debts he had amounted during the 2001 elections campaign.
In exchange for the funds, police suspect, Sharon was expected to promote Schlaff’s business interests in Israel.
“Evidence exists that Gila and Omri Sharon mediated the transfer of bribe money,” police said.
“At the same time, the evidence is incomplete. A number of difficulties arose from the fact that we could not question foreign nationals whose testimonies are needed,” police explained in a statement on Tuesday.
Despite scheduling a questioning session with Schlaff in Austria, the police source said, a lawyer had showed up instead of Schlaff at the last minute and told officers in Austria that the businessman would not show up.
In April 2010, Schlaff chose not to attend his father’s funeral in Jerusalem, after failing to receive assurances from police that he would not be arrested if he came to Israel.
Nevertheless, the head of the police’s Investigations and Intelligence Branch, Yoav Seglovitch, has adopted the investigation team’s conclusions that Sharon brothers should be indicted, and has passed the case on to state prosecutors for a decision on whether they will be charged.
In a separate investigation that ended in 2009, Police suspect that Schlaff sent Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2001 and 2004, while Lieberman served as national infrastructures and transportation minister, a suspicion that has been denied by Lieberman.
In September 2010, the Movement for Quality Government sent a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein calling for all elected officials to be banned from communicating with Schlaff.