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The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem
"Prime Minister Barak said he was to blame"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 21:31 GMT
Barak party faces criminal probe

Ehud Barak Ehud Barak has complained that the law is unclear

A criminal investigation has been ordered into allegations that the political party led by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, broke fundraising laws during last year's general election.

Mr Barak is accused of allowing foreign money to be channelled into the campaign of his One Israel coalition through non-profit groups, in an attempt to get around legal spending limits.

A strongly-worded report compiled by the state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg singled out the One Israel alliance as a main violator of fundraising laws and fined it 13 million shekels ($3.3m) on Thursday.

In a report presented to parliament's acting speaker Noami Hazan, Mr Goldberg sharply criticised One Israel for what he described as "a flagrant breach of the law".

I determined clearly that the law was broken
Eliezer Goldberg

Mr Goldberg said he had concerns over the behaviour of the prime minister, adding that a candidate for the premiership was obliged to oversee his own campaign and that it was not enough simply to instruct his aides to work within the law.

Israel Elections Special Report
The report names cabinet secretary Yitzhak Herzog as raising the bulk of the funds contrary to the law.

Israel's Attorney-General Eliyakim Rubinstein ordered the police to launch an investigation into the report's findings, which are expected to be made public soon.

Mr Rubinstein's office said in a statement the donations had been "channelled in a cloud of secrecy" to non-profit organisations.

I did not know the non-profit organisations, I was not informed of the details, and I was not involved specifically in any of the actions described in the report
Ehud Barak
Mr Barak said at a news conference that he "honoured" the comptroller's report, but said "in the light of the large fine, we are considering a petition to the supreme court in coming days".

He denied any involvement in One Israel's fundraising efforts.

"I did not know the non-profit organisations, I was not informed of the details, and I was not involved specifically in any of the actions described in the report," he said.

The fine is made up of 5.5. million shekels ($1.3m), recommended by the report, with the remainder being restitution of funds.

Donation rules

Under Israeli law, foreign contributions to election campaigns are illegal and domestic donations are restricted to approximately $400 per voter.

The report said the amount of "illegal contributions" for the campaign totalled 10.9 million shekels ($2.6m).

President Weizman President Weizman has been accused of accepting bribes
The BBC's correspondent in Jerusalem, Hilary Andersson, say the issue has come up at an inopportune time for Mr Barak, who is trying to keep to a demanding schedule for reaching peace agreements with the Syrians and the Palestinians.

It follows several high-profile political scandals in Israel.

President Weizman is under criminal investigation for the receipt of large sums of money in the 1980s, and the former Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, is being questioned by police over allegations of corruption.

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See also:
13 May 99 |  Israel elections
Profile: Ehud Barak
27 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Funding scandal threatens peace process
03 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Israeli president faces cash probe
24 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Ezer Weizman: Outspoken maverick
25 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Weizman gives up some powers
15 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing
21 Oct 99 |  Middle East
Netanyahu quizzed by police

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