Police question Sharons sons on corruption charges

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Police questioned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's son, Gilad, on Wednesday, for the second time in a month in connection with a Greek island transaction in which he and his father are suspected of being involved.

Sharon smiled at reporters after leaving the offices of the National Unit for Aggravated and International Crime, but neither he nor his lawyer, Micha Fetman, responded to reporters' questions.

Israel Radio reported that Gilad Sharon "apparently invoked the right to remain silent." Sharon refused to answer police questions during his first interrogation into the matter on July 30.

Two weeks before that interrogation, Gilad Sharon had also refused to answer questions from a National Fraud Unit team investigating how Ariel Sharon and his sons repaid an illegal $1.5 million campaign contribution given to him in 1999 by supporters abroad.

Sharon's other son, Knesset member Omri Sharon, was questioned about the campaign contribution affair on Monday. He told investigators that his brother had handled the matter.

The Greek island affair has to do with attempts by contractor David Appel to purchase an island off the coast of Athens in order to build a multimillion-dollar resort complex. While Ariel Sharon was serving as Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999, Appel signed a contract to pay his son, then 30 and a business novice, $20,000 a month as a business consultant. According to reports, Gilad would have received $3 million had the project gone through.

Gilad Sharon is in charge of business affairs for Sycamore Farm, the Sharon estate.

Police believe Appel signed the contract with Gilad Sharon to obtain his father's help in facilitating the resort project. Sharon later hosted the deputy foreign minister of Greece on a visit to Israel.

Appel is also suspected of bribing then-Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert into helping him with the project by hosting the visit of the mayor of Athens to Jerusalem. Appel is suspected of funding an official banquet held by the Jerusalem municipality for the Athenian mayor.

In return for the help he received from both Likud leaders, he allegedly contributed to the election campaigns of both men when they ran against each other for the chairmanship of the Likud in 1999, after Netanyahu's resignation.