Officials in Israel's Justice ministry are considering whether to bring charges against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his deputy for receiving bribes from a property developer. The officials say the process could take months, and in the meantime, associates of Mr. Sharon say he will not step down.
Justice ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they are considering possible indictments against Mr. Sharon, his son Gilad and Deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
The officials spoke after an indictment was issued against Israeli real estate developer David Appel in the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court. He is alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to all three figures in what has been dubbed "The Greek Island Affair".
The indictment alleges that Mr. Appel sought Mr. Sharon's influence to purchase a Greek Island resort at the end of the 1990s. At that time, Mr. Sharon was foreign minister and Mr. Appel was helping him in his bid to become leader of the Likud Party.
The indictment also alleges Mr. Appel later sought help to re-zone urban land near Tel Aviv, after Mr. Sharon became prime minister in 2001.
Mr. Sharon was allegedly asked to use his influence, although neither the project in Greece nor the land deal near Tel Aviv went ahead.
In addition, the indictment charges Mr. Appel with bribing Mr. Olmert to promote the Greek project when Mr. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem in the late 1990s.
Mr. Appel is also alleged to have hired the prime minister's son, Gilad Sharon, to be the marketing adviser on the Greek Island project and continued to pay him even when it became clear the deal would not succeed.
Members of the Israeli opposition have called for Mr. Sharon to step down as prime minister, until his name has been cleared.
But officials close to Mr. Sharon told Israel Army Radio that the prime minister has no intention of resigning, and insists that there is no case against him.