Gilad Sharon Silent During Interrogation Over Business Deal

Detectives of special police units questioned Ariel Sharon's son Gilad Tuesday over suspicions that a business deal involving the prime minister's Negev ranch was in fact a disguised and improper gift to the Sharon family.

Gilad Sharon stood by his right to remain silent during the questioning, Israel Radio reported.

The focus of the interrogation was a business deal between the Israel Land Development Corporation (ILDC), which is under control of the prominent Nimrodi family, and the Sycamore Ranch, which is owned by the prime minister's sons.

Gilad Sharon, summoned to interrogation in Petah Tikva, was questioned under warning, indicating that he may face trial in the future.

In May of 1999, the ILDC paid NIS 1.3 million for a 42-month option to buy the S. P. HaNegev company, which is partially owned by the Sharon family. At the end of the period, in November 2002, the ILDC decided not to exercise the option. As a result, the NIS 1.3 million remained in the hands of the company.

The police are investigating the possibility that the option purchase was a maneuver disguised as a normal business deal. Police suspect the decision not to exercise the option was based not on economic considerations, but rather was designed to grant a gift to the prime minister's family.

The police and the State Prosecutor's Office found out about the deal from several sources, among them the documents turned over by Gilad Sharon under court-order during the investigation into the "Greek island" affair.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry has denied claims published in Haaretz that the State Prosecutor's Office was ordered to either halt, or at least not advance, the investigation.