Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sharon corruption scandal re-emerges ahead of vote

JERUSALEM, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A corruption probe haunting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the run-up to Israel's March election resurfaced on Wednesday after police asked a court for permission to search an Austrian businessman's computer. In a new twist to the complex investigation, newspapers published police documents asking for the go-ahead to look for data on the machine in connection with suspicions Sharon's family received $3 million from foreign donors. "The national unit for investigations has been unable to conclude whether the suspicions are correct," Mickey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said. Police have been trying for years to trace the source of foreign funds they suspect Sharon used to repay illegal campaign contributions he received in 1999, when he ran for the leadership of the right-wing Likud party. But a police spokesman said the court had denied police access to information on the computer, seized during a visit by the businessman to Israel, that might provide evidence in the long-running case. The re-emergence of the corruption scandal could tarnish Sharon and his newly formed Kadima party ahead of the election.

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