JERUSALEM – The Israeli Justice Ministry is coming to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to indict Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) in a bribery case, an Israeli TV station said Wednesday.
Ministry officials could not immediately reached for comment.
If Sharon is indicted, he could be forced to step down. A close associate of Sharon has been indicted on charges of bribing Sharon and one of his sons in a real estate deal, but criminal intent on Sharon's part would have to be proved in order to convict him on a bribery (search) charge.
In TV interviews on Tuesday, Sharon declared, "I am completely innocent," but declined to discuss the case further.
Channel Two TV said Wednesday that a team within the ministry, put together by Attorney General Meni Mazuz (search) concluded that there is not enough evidence to indict Sharon.
The final decision rests with Mazuz, and it is expected within a month.
The unsourced report said the team decided unanimously that though there were signs of wrongdoing, there was not enough evidence to warrant an indictment.
The TV report said that the next step would be to present the team's findings to state attorney Edna Arbel for her comments next week.
Other Israeli media said the team had not presented an interim report and was undecided over the indictment. Arbel has recommended charging Sharon.
Experts have said that a case against Sharon should be airtight before an indictment is issued, because of the far-reaching political consequences — the possible unseating of a prime minister.
Police have been investigating Sharon on suspicion he accepted $690,000 in bribes from Israeli businessman David Appel to help promote a tourism project in Greece and rezone urban land in Tel Aviv. Sharon allegedly received bribes as foreign minister in 1999, and after he was elected prime minister.
Appel was indicted in January for allegedly bribing Sharon. Sharon's son Gilad allegedly was paid large sums of money so that his father would use his influence to push the project forward. The Greek project failed, as did the one near Tel Aviv.