Prosecutor in Greek Island Affair Told to Stand Aside

Long-serving state prosecutor Anat Savidor has been asked to take a leave of absence from her work, after she allegedly leaked information on the so-called Greek Island affair to a journalist.

The probe into the affair centers around the suspicion that contractor David Appel hired Gilad Sharon, the son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as a highly-paid consultant in a scheme to develop a resort on a Greek island in return for preferential treatment from his father, who was both foreign minister and infrastructure minister at the time.

Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert is also suspected of using his former position as mayor of Jerusalem to help Appel with the project in exchange for Appel's help in Olmert's bid for the party leadership in 1999.

On January 10, Jerusalem-based journalist Yehiel Dotan, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth's local weekly, published a headline claiming, "Police recommend charges against Olmert and Appel, and closing the case against Ariel Sharon due to lack of evidence."

In the body of the text, the following appeared: "A senior prosecution source told Yerushalayim this week that, `Despite the police recommendation, it will be very problematic to file criminal charges against Olmert in this case, primarily because of the difficulty in proving he had criminal intent ... the facts of the case are clear and simple, because the visit of the mayor of Athens did in fact coincide with the business interests of David Appel, but, on the other hand, the visit also benefited the city of Jerusalem.'

"The case file, which was transferred from the police to the central division of the State Attorney's Office, is 98 pages long and involves a long series of affairs, all of which center around David Appel. Among the documents in the file is the transcript of a telephone conversation between Olmert and Appel, which the courts authorized police to wiretap," the paper wrote.

In April 2002, the investigation into the affair was far from over when police handed over their report to the prosecution. For reasons that remain unclear, the police decided not to delve any deeper into this area of the affair, and Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein did not order them to do so.

The investigation was renewed in March 2003, but only after journalist Mordechai Gilat presented to the Tel Aviv District Court a contract between Gilad Sharon and Appel, after Appel had sued Gilat for libel. Haaretz has learned that police obtained a copy of the contract long before it was revealed in court. Nonetheless, the suspicion of wrongdoing by Sharon was never investigated.

The Greek Island case is different from all of the previous files Savidor had handled, and prosecution sources say she was unsure how to handle it. An additional problem for Savidor is that she is the daughter of one-time Likud lawmaker Menahem Savidor, whose name has been linked in various contexts to some of those involved in the Greek Island affair.

Dotan made a tape recording of his conversation with Savidor, which he handed to a third party, who in turn handed it over to the authorities. Once the tapes reached the State Attorney's Office, an internal inquiry was launched. On Sunday, Savidor was summoned to a meeting with Justice Ministry director-general Aharon Abramovitch, who told her to take a leave of absence.

In a statement issued yesterday Savidor said, "following the publication of a series of articles at the start of 2001, I was contacted by a journalist who asked to verify certain facts that were reported in the media. The conversation was recorded without my knowledge. During the conversation, no information was relayed that was not already known. To the best of my knowledge and understanding, no sensitive or confidential information of any kind was relayed."