Call for Olmert indictment

By Yaakov Katz, September 10, 2008
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The Israeli Attorney General will decide in the coming weeks whether to accept a police recommendation and indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for allegedly receiving tens of thousands of dollars from a US businessman and double-billing Jewish organisations for trips overseas.

The police recommendation was submitted to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday night and came after months of investigations and speculation that included the interrogation of Mr Olmert, his wife and son.

Police are now trying to convince two of Mr Olmert's former associates, who have also been implicated in the affair, to turn state's witness and testify against the prime minister.

One of the associates is Shula Zaken, Mr Olmert's longtime assistant from his days as Jerusalem mayor, whose records and emails serve as the basis for some of the police suspicions against the Prime Minister.

The police recommendations are based on two probes. The most severe being suspicions are that Mr Olmert received envelopes of cash from New York businessman Moshe Talansky in exchange for advancing the mogul's business interests. Police said that several letters Mr Olmert wrote to US businessmen to promote Mr Talansky's interests led to the recommendation to charge the prime minister with bribery, alongside fraud and breach of trust.

If Mr Olmert is charged and convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison. Unnamed police sources have been quoted widely in the Israeli press claiming that the case was watertight and would lead to a conviction.

"The evidence is solid and it is likely that the prosecution will decide to press charges in light of the police recommendation," Moshe Mizrachi, the former head of the Israel Police's Investigations Department, said.

The police did a very professional job in this case and collected sufficient evidence that can be used to back up all of the charges."

The second investigation, known as the Rishon Tours affair, is based on suspicions that Mr Olmert double-billed charities and a government ministry for the same flights, sent them bogus receipts and used the reimbursements to buy plane tickets for family members.

The police recommendation has sparked calls in the Knesset for Mr Olmert's immediate resignation. The Prime Minister has said that he would resign if he was indicted, or would quit after the Kadima Party primaries, scheduled for next Wednesday.

Mr Olmert has rejected the charges and claims that the monies he received from Mr Talansky were legitimate political contributions. Mr Talansky testified in a Jerusalem court, however, earlier this summer that some of the money was intended for Mr Olmert's personal use.

Police have also revealed a letter Mr Olmert wrote to Jewish hotel and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson in 2005 asking him to consider using Mr Talansky's minibars in his hotels.

Mr Olmert's legal team downplayed the police recommendation and said that there were many cases in the past when the police recommended that a suspect be indicted and then the prosecution decided not to indict.

"The police's recommendation does not have any significance," Mr Olmert's lawyer said. "It would have been better had the police refrained from making a recommendation since it is not their expertise or under their authority."

 

    Last updated: 4:42pm, September 11 2008