Wednesday 31 March 2004

Secret tapes put heat on Sharon

Keep your fingers crossed...

Israeli prosecutors were persuaded to recommend charging Ariel Sharon with corruption in part by secret recordings of the prime minister rehashing one of the most famous army signals of the 1967 war.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Mr Sharon, who was foreign minister in 1999, was captured on tape in a conversation with a businessman, David Appel, who has already been charged with paying him to pressure the Greek government to approve construction of a casino on an Aegean island.

In the tape recording, Mr Sharon is reportedly heard telling Mr Appel: "The island is in our hands" - a reworking of the signal renowned throughout Israel after troops stormed East Jerusalem, "the Temple Mount is in our hands".

Later in the recording, Mr Appel says: "Your son is going to earn a lot of money."

Haaretz reported that the two comments appearing in the same conversation were important in persuading prosecutors to recommend that Mr Sharon be indicted.

The comments also establish that Mr Sharon knew about Mr Appel's attempts to build the casino, undermining his attempts to say he was not involved in promoting the project. Miryam Rosenthal, a former senior attorney at the Israeli prosecution service, told army radio yesterday that Mr Sharon's remark was "almost equivalent to an admission of guilt".

According to the draft indictment, Mr Sharon is alleged to have received about £390,000 in bribes through a bank account for the family ranch in the Negev, and to his son, Gilad, in return for Mr Sharon's help.

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