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Austrian Bank Links Sharon to Jericho Casino Stake

25 September 2003

ISRAEL – As reported by the Haaretz: "The Austrian bank BAWAG (Bank fur Arbeit und Wirtschaft), through which large sums of money were transferred to the Sharon family, has business interests in Israel and the Middle East. Among other things, it is a part-owner, together with Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, of the Jericho casino. And the Israel Police are now considering the possibility that the bank itself was behind some or all of the money transfers to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's family in 2002.

"Schlaff's business interests in Israel are well-known, and it is no secret that police are looking into his ties with the Sharon family and whether he had any connection with the transfers of money from Austria to the Sharons. But the fact that BAWAG is also heavily invested in projects that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has the power to help or hurt emerged only recently.

"BAWAG owns at least 10 percent, and perhaps more, of the Oasis Casino in Jericho. Thus the bank, like Schlaff, is eagerly awaiting the moment when Sharon will give a green light for the casino to reopen.

"…All of the mysterious money transfers to the Sharon family have passed through BAWAG.

"…Schlaff, in addition to his interest in the Jericho casino, is also heavily invested (along with other Austrian partners) in a floating casino off Eilat, called the Cancun. The ship is currently anchored outside of Israel's territorial waters and is not operative, and

"…Additionally, Schlaff has been trying for years to set up a casino in Israel. Over the last year, the Prime Minister's Office has invested a great deal of staff work in a proposal to legalize gambling in Israel.

"Since Sharon was elected, Schlaff has visited him at his ranch several times…"

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