TEL AVIV, Aug 18: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was embroiled in an embarrassing new affair following reports on Monday that he had intervened on behalf of two neighbours from his home village in a land compensation battle.
He reportedly asked the transport ministry to increase the compensation it had granted to Menashe and Mordehai Malmud for the expropriation of their land in Kfar Malal, near Tel Aviv.
The land is to be used for the construction of a new road, route 531.
According to the economic daily Globes, this allowed the brothers to obtain 110,000 dollars more than the amount orginally proposed, taking the total to 720,000 dollars.
Sharon’s office confirmed the prime minister had put the two brothers in contact with the ministry but denied that he had exercised influence to obtain more compensation.
“It’s good to have a good neighbour,” ran the headline in the Maariv daily which, like all newspapers, ran the story prominently Monday.
In the wake of the revelations, Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein set up a team to investigate the claims, Israeli public radio reported.
Attorney Rachel Sukar, who heads the team, has asked the transport ministry to provide all relevant information about the construction of the road and the related compensation claims.
Sharon and his sons are already at the centre of several police investigations, although the premier does not appear to be directly threatened and is still going strong in the polls.
Sharon’s sons Omri and Gilad have been interrogated by the National Fraud Squad over suspicions the family violated campaign finance laws by obtaining a loan from South African businessman and family friend Cyril Kern in 1999.
Gilad was also questioned over the so-called “Greek island” affair. He allegedly helped contractor David Appel promote a multi-million dollar resort in exchange for cash and a commitment by Appel to pour money into the Sharon family’s ranch in the Negev desert. —AFP