AG Resumes Police Probes of Politicians

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein yesterday informed the police and the State Prosecution that the passing of the elections has also brought an end to the moratorium he declared on political investigations, and that he now expects all such probes to proceed expeditiously.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's family is involved in two of the most complex investigations - the "Greek island" influence-peddling affair, in which the suspects include Sharon's son, Gilad, businessman David Appel and Jerusalem Mayor and MK-elect Ehud Olmert (Likud); and the loan that Gilad Sharon received from Cyril Kern, a British businessman living in South Africa. The latter is an outgrowth of another investigation into the financing of Sharon's campaign for the Likud chairmanship in 1999, in which he allegedly received illegal donations from abroad.

Sharon's other son, Omri, was involved in the campaign finance affair, and is expected to be questioned under caution in the near future. When originally questioned, Omri exercised his right to remain silent, and his father defended this choice. But after Sharon fired a deputy minister, Naomi Blumenthal, earlier this month for exercising her right to remain silent during an investigation, Sharon was bombarded with accusations of hypocrisy, to which he responded that what is legitimate for a private individual is not legitimate for an elected official.

But Omri was elected to the Knesset on the Likud slate this week, and police thus plan to question him as soon as he is sworn in, in the hope that his new status will encourage him to talk.

Cyril Kern is slated to be questioned in South Africa in mid-February, after which police will question Gilad Sharon, and perhaps his father as well. Gilad is also slated for questioning in the Greek island affair - and again, perhaps the prime minister will be called in to give his account too.

Police are also concluding their investigation of Blumenthal, who is suspected of vote-buying during the recent Likud primaries.

A more complicated investigation relating to the Likud primaries is whether and how organized crime penetrated the party's central committee. One facet of this investigation involves the ties between Omri Sharon and a former convict, Shlomi Oz. Together, the two registered hundreds of new members for the Likud and succeeded in electing several members of the Central Committee.

Yet another investigation relates to a tender published by the Israel Airports Authority for security at the country's border crossings. The tender was allegedly improperly awarded to a firm affiliated with Shlomi Oz. So far, however, police are having trouble coming up with evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

An investigation into Labor and Social Affairs Minister Shlomo Benizri (Shas), who is suspected of taking bribes, is due to be completed soon, and police will also continue investigating two criminal complaints against Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna.

Finally, two cases in which the police have already recommended indictments are awaiting a decision by the attorney general. One involves Labor MK Eli Ben-Menahem, who allegedly bribed a rival to drop out of the party's primaries; the other involves alleged campaign finance violations by associations that supported Ehud Barak in his 1999 prime ministerial campaign. In this case, police have recommended indicting both outgoing Labor MK Weizman Shiri and Labor MK-elect Isaac Herzog.