Case against Olmert ‘very strong’ after key witness gives evidence

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz must now decide whether to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the alleged bribes he received from Morris Talansky, after the American fundraiser ended five days in the dock with his version of events intact.

Despite appearing at times shaken and confused during the cross-examination, the main facts of his testimony have not been changed. Mr Olmert allegedly received money through Mr Talansky on at least three separate occasions and he also covered the expenses of Mr Olmert and his wife’s stay in Washington in October 2005.

 

“Not only has the defence failed to change Talansky’s testimony on these matters,” a member of the state prosecution team told the JC, “but we have in addition the testimony of Uri Messer [Mr Olmert’s lawyer] and documents that prove it all, so our case is still looking very strong.”

Mr Talansky insisted throughout the preliminary questioning that the money was not intended as a bribe and he had no knowledge of its use. At the end of his five-day ordeal, he told the JC: “I am hurt and confused at everything I have had to go through but I did what I came to do, tell the truth.”

A senior Justice Ministry official told the JC: “The Attorney-General will be making a decision on whether to indict in the very near future. He realises that with a case involving the Prime Minister, we can’t wait around too long.”

The Talansky case is just one of six investigations into Mr Olmert’s finances that the Attorney-General must decide, but the official said that the clear evidence meant it will be the first in which a decision will be reached. Mr Olmert has promised that he will resign if indicted.

Meanwhile, Mr Olmert will have to announce by the end of July whether he plans to run in the Kadima leadership primaries in September. The Kadima party is being held to ransom by Labour, which has threatened to leave the coalition unless the ruling party appoints a new leader who will also become prime minister. Mr Olmert begrudgingly agreed to the primaries but has not yet said whether he plans to run. An announcement that he will not run is expected now that his lawyers have failed to turn the tide and will be tantamount to an admission that he intends to resign.

    Last updated: 4:50pm, July 24 2008