Son of former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon goes to jail for fraud

( dpa ) - The son of former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon began serving a seven-month prison term Wednesday, for fraudulently raising millions of Israeli shekels for his father's 1999 primaries campaign.

Awaited by scores of reporters, Omri Sharon, 43, arrived at Tel Aviv's district court Wednesday morning, from where he was to be sent to Israel's Ma'asiyahu prison, in Ramle south-east of Tel Aviv.

He begins his sentence a day after marking his father's 80th birthday in a hospital near Tel Aviv, where Sharon senior has spent the past two years in a deep coma after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage.

Omri Sharon was convicted in November 2005, and sentenced to nine months jail and a nine-month suspended sentence in February 2006. But in June, he had his sentence reduced to seven months after an appeal.

He has also been fined 300,000 shekels (some 83,000 dollars).

He was found guilty of illegally raising some 6 million shekels (about 1.6 million dollars) - more than seven times the 820,000 shekels allowed to be raised for primaries under Israel's election law.

Sharon junior did so by setting up fake companies, which received payments for non-existent consulting services, which in fact were donations.

He raised the money for his father's 1999 campaign, which saw Ariel Sharon obtain the leadership of the hardline Likud party. As Likud leader, Sharon senior was subsequently first elected prime minister some 18 months later, in February 2001.

Sharon senior was not indicted, saying he was unaware of his son's fundraising methods and had left his finances entirely up to him.

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