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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 14:53 GMT
Fraud police quiz Ariel Sharon
The BBC's James Reynolds
By James Reynolds
BBC correspondent in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon reportedly cleared his schedule for the day
Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has been questioned by police officers in connection with his family's financial affairs.

Officers from the national fraud squad spent more than six hours questioning Mr Sharon at his official residence in Jerusalem.

This marks the first time he has been questioned in his time as prime minister.

Reports say Mr Sharon met the police alone, without a lawyer - apparently his way of showing he has nothing to hide.

The officers left the residence without comment.

It is thought they were questioning the prime minister on two separate issues.

Illegal contributions

The first is the way in which Ariel Sharon and his two sons, Omri and Gilad, repaid around $1m of illegal campaign contributions dating back to his Likud leadership campaign in 1999.

The second focuses on the nature of the business relationship between Gilad and an Israeli businessman, David Appel.

Investigators have been trying to find out whether any funds were used improperly and whether attempts were made to try to buy Ariel Sharon's influence.

Officers have already questioned a number of people, including the prime minister's sons.

Gilad Sharon remained silent during interrogations.

Ariel Sharon has insisted in public that he has not done anything wrong but, according to Israeli opinion polls, many believe there is some wrongdoing.

The fraud squad may have the final say.

Investigations like this one are not new in Israeli politics.

Both Mr Sharon's immediate predecessors, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu, faced corruption inquiries.

In 1977, Yitzhak Rabin resigned as prime minister because his wife held an illegal bank account in the United States.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"His political future is on the line"

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