In a dramatic development surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, evidence has been unearthed which may implicate Sharon in receiving $3 million in illegal donations for Israel's 1999 elections from South African millionaire Cyril Kern.
Israeli police confiscated documents related to the investigation from the home of Martin Schlaf in Austria, believed to be a possible source of the funds allegedly transferred to Sharon. Shlaff owns many casinos worldwide, including in the West Bank town of Jericho.
Israeli authorities revealed that despite the findings, the investigation would not be completed until after upcoming Israeli elections in March.
Israeli police had previously requested permission to investigate in Austria, but without success. An opportunity presented itself when James Schlaf, brother of Martin Schlaf, arrived in Israel, at which point Israeli police raided the Schlaf family home, confiscating documents and laptops.
Authorities are investigating whether or not money was transferred illegally into the bank account of Sharon's son, Gilad, while officials suspect that a portion of the money may have been used to payback illegal donations that Sharon received.
In response to the discovery, some Israeli politicians called on Sharon to quit politics.
MK Yossi Sarid called on Sharon to save the public “a troublesome and corrupt presence,” saying that corruption is more dangerous to Israel than outside threats.
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said he considered the matter to be very severe, while some including Shinui leader Tommy Lapid and Labor's Ophir Pines-Paz, suggested that he be investigated for possible indictment ahead of the March 28 elections.
"If police suspicions are solid as reported, and if there is evidence indicating that Sharon and his family members received three million dollars from Martin Schlaf, this would mean a sharp turnaround in the elections campaign," Lapid said.
"For the first time in our history, a prime minister has been accused of taking bribes," Pines-Paz stated.