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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Q&A: Sharon corruption inquiries
Israeli Prime
Ariel Sharon is in the clear over one corruption scandal, but faces another
The Israeli attorney general has decided that there is not enough evidence to bring charges against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a bribery case. BBC News Online looks at the key questions about the corruption scandals that have hung over Mr Sharon.

What was Ariel Sharon alleged to have done wrong?

Mr Sharon has been facing two separate investigations. Both involve his sons and both relate to alleged infringements of election fund-raising laws.

He will not face charges in the first of these cases, known as the Greek Island affair.

He was alleged to have accepted bribes from Israeli businessman David Appel to use his influence when foreign minister in the 1990s over a property deal in Greece.

Mr Appel was alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr Sharon's son Gilad, whom he employed as a consultant in the scheme to develop the island of Patroklos. Gilad had no previous experience in the tourism industry.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided that there was insufficient evidence to warrant charges against Mr Sharon, contrary to recommendations by the chief prosecutor.

What is the second scandal about?

The other investigation hanging over the Sharon family stems from an alleged infringement of election finance regulations in 1999 and 2000.

Mr Sharon spent $1.5m more than the law allows on his party leadership campaign. To repay this overspend, Mr Sharon sought to mortgage his family ranch. It emerged that the Sharons did not actually own all of the ranch.

In 2002, an old friend of Mr Sharon, South Africa-based British businessman Cyril Kern, transferred $1.5m into the bank accounts of the prime minister's sons, Gilad and Omri, a member of the Israeli parliament.

This allowed the Sharons to pay back the campaign overspend using Mr Kern's money as collateral against a loan.

The use of Mr Kern's money in this way may have been a further infringement of election finance rules, as Israeli political parties are not allowed to raise funds from abroad.

What impact will the closing of the Greek Island case have on Mid-East peace negotiations?

The decision may clear the way for the main opposition Labour party to enter a new broad-based coalition government in order to help steer Mr Sharon's controversial Gaza pullout plan through parliament.

Mr Sharon lost his majority in the Israeli parliament last week after the departure of four ministers from far right-wing parties who had been fiercely opposed to his disengagement plan.

The presence of Labour in government might help revive direct talks with the Palestinians.

Are these kind of scandals unusual in Israeli politics?

Financial scandals have dogged several Israeli prime ministers.

In 1977, Yitzhak Rabin resigned because his wife was found to hold a bank account in the United States - an infringement on foreign currency regulations.

Binyamin Netanyahu left office in 1999 under a cloud. He was being investigated over allegations that he and his wife had kept hundreds of gifts that should have been turned over to the state and the misuse of state funds. The allegations contributed to his heavy election defeat at the hands of Ehud Barak, but charges were eventually dropped.

Mr Barak also faced problems. He was questioned as part of an investigation into fund-raising irregularities in his 1999 election campaign. He denied any wrongdoing, saying he had no role in fund-raising.

Israel drops Sharon bribery case
15 Jun 04  |  Middle East
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05 Feb 04  |  Middle East
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25 Jan 04  |  Middle East
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13 Jan 03  |  Middle East
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13 Jan 03  |  Middle East
Profile: Ariel Sharon
21 Jan 04  |  Middle East

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