Criminal Investigation Launched against President Weizman on Suspicion of Business Ties with Saroussi

Sources assess: an investigation is being made of President Ezer Weizman's involvement in the acceptance of commissions in respect of various transactions, including arms deals.

Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein, on the authority of State Attorney Edna Arbel, has instructed the police and the tax authorities to launch an investigation against President Ezer Weizman. The police investigation conducted so far thus becomes more serious.

According to suspicions that arose during the check the police team has been making into the affair, which began in 1983-84 and continued until after Weizman took ministerial office, he maintained a business connection with Edouard Saroussi through a company in which Saroussi had an easement. The investigation team uncovered findings allegedly pointing to evidence of a relationship "of a business nature" between Weizman and that company, a matter not previously known.

Saroussi's counsel, Adv. Pinhas Rubin, commented that Saroussi would gladly give the State Attorney's Office his version of events if required. Rubin said he knew nothing about them concerning the new findings.

Various sources maintain that the investigation will focus, for one thing, on Weizman's involvement in the receipt of commissions in respect of various transactions, including arms deals, and how they were reported.

The investigation is focusing on the possibility that the commissions were allegedly received from two commercial sources: the export of arms from Israel and perhaps also the import of military materiel.

According to information exposed by journalist Yoav Yitzhak, Saroussi, a Sudan-born textile merchant, made a fortune in arms trading in Costa Rica and other countries. This was in the period 1981-84, when Weizman himself was engaged, together with business associates, in various arms deals, with the approval of the Ministry of Defence.

The police and the tax authorities seek to investigate reports of arms export deals, in order to determine whether full disclosure was made of the commissions the exporters received. They also seek to determine whether full tax was paid respecting the commissions, or whether some of the partners filed only partial reports, with the balance of the commissions allegedly arriving through various channels, including a gift transferred to the trust account, without due tax being paid on the commissions.

The investigation will also look at the possibility, so far not proven, of the import of military equipment through Israeli brokerage provided by business systems in which Weizman was active at the time, and foreign brokerage by related companies or companies that were, at that time, related to Saroussi.

The investigation touches on the ostensible possibility that higher than reported commissions were loaded onto the price of the equipment paid by the defence establishment, and that the brokers or agents of the two parties shared these extras between them.

In this context, the possibility is being examined that the Israeli party received its share in the payment of commissions by means of a gift ostensibly transferred into the trust account, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Defence and without due income tax being paid thereon.

"Globes" has learned that, according to the suspicions being advanced, the money represented remuneration received by Weizman in respect of consultation he provided in 1983 and 1984 to a German company related to Saroussi, which operated in Madagascar. Weizman was then serving as a Knesset member, and later as a cabinet minister.

Ezer Weizman's counsel, Adv. Yehuda Winstein, commented that "in view of various strange rumours being circulated in the press with regard to the President's affair, which are unfounded, he welcomes the investigation and seeks no special privileges. The President expects the investigation to be quickly completed and the truth to be arrived at, since the truth necessarily serves the President's interests".

Published by Israel's Business Arena January 20, 2000

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