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The BBC's Jeremy Bowen
''President Weizman could face cat calls in parliament''
 real 28k

Sunday, 23 January, 2000, 12:53 GMT
Weizman corruption probe opens

President Weizman admits accepting cash gifts


Israeli police have opened an unprecedented investigation into allegations that President Ezer Weizman received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments.

Israel's tax authorities are also carrying out a probe as pressure grows on the president to resign or take leave of absence.

It is the first time an Israeli head of state has faced criminal allegations.

President Weizman is accused of tax fraud and corrupt business dealings with French millionaire Edouard Saroussi.

Medical bills

The alleged transactions took place before he was head of state but while he was a minister and member of parliament.

The payments were revealed by Israeli journalist Yoav Yitzhak who said Mr Weizman had received nearly $500,000 from Mr Saroussi.

President Weizman has admitted receiving large sums of money, but he says the cash was just a present from a friend and insists he is innocent of any crime.

His aides said the bulk of the money went on medical treatment for his son Shaul, who was injured in the Arab-Israeli conflict and has since died.

Cat calls

Police say they expect Mr Weizman will have to testify as part of the inquiry.

Israeli politicians have advised President Weizman to take leave of absence until the investigation is over.

But his lawyer is said to be against this in case it is seen as an admission of guilt.

The president is due to attend parliament on Monday. Some MPs have warned that if he turns up there could be cat calls.

Contract

Reports say the documents under scrutiny injclude a 1983 contract between Mr Weizman and Mr Sarussi.

Israel's Channel Two TV said Mr Weizman received an annual salary of $50,000 dollars in 1983 and 1984 as an "adviser" to the businessman's Madagascar textile company.

The report said police suspected this was a fictional position and that Mr Weizman was using his influence on behalf of his friend.

Tax

Police are also looking into whether the hundreds of thousands of dollars received by Mr Weizman between 1987 and 1993 were gifts not subject to tax or income he should have declared.

Mr Saroussi's lawyer, Pinhas Rubin said "there was no link between the salary paid in 1983-84 and the gifts given beginning in 1987 in the name of friendship''.

A recent opinion poll showed 41% of Israelis thought Mr Weizman should quit, while 39% were against.

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See also:
20 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Weizman 'no intention to resign'
13 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Police join Weizman probe
03 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Israeli president faces cash probe

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