Peres Asks Georgia President to Help Friend Nabbed in Bribe Case

Ron Fuchs was arrested on suspicion of attempting to bribe Georgian Deputy Finance Minister Avtandil Kharaidze.

President Shimon Peres phoned Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili earlier this week and asked him to make sure the two Israeli businessmen who were arrested in Georgia last Thursday are treated well.

The two, Ron Fuchs and Ze'ev Frenkiel, were arrested on suspicion of attempting to bribe Georgian Deputy Finance Minister Avtandil Kharaidze to stymie an appeal by the Georgian government in a London court over a $90 million arbitration award obtained against the government. Peres asked Saakashvili to make sure the authorities conduct a fair investigation against the two and that they receive a fair trial.

He also asked his Georgian counterpart's help in arranging a doctor's appointment for Fuchs as soon as possible and to make sure he receives the medication he needs.

"I know Fuchs," Peres reportedly told Saakashvili on the telephone.

A presidential aide said yesterday it was a routine call the president makes to help Israelis apprehended overseas.

"The president has such conversations once a month. He responds to requests by families of Israelis arrested abroad and tries to help them. It is not an attempt to release the businessmen but a request for humanitarian aid and a meeting with a doctor," the aide said.

But unlike dozens of other Israelis who were arrested, Peres is a longtime friend of Fuchs, political sources said.

Sources at the President's Residence said the two had never concealed their friendship and added they were "acquaintances."

Peres, Fuchs and MK Dalia Itzik used to meet socially on various occasions, the sources said. Itzik had introduced Fuchs to Peres before he was elected president. The three were often seen dining in the Rafael restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Fuchs has visited the president's residence several times and had private dinners with him, sources said. Fuchs, who is reportedly well-connected in Turkey, helped Peres convey messages to Ankara in the past, sources said.