Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to be questioned by police today (Friday) for the second time over suspicions of bribe-taking. One of the main witnesses, financier Morris Talanski, is to give preliminary evidence next week.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador claimed in a Supreme Court hearing that Mr Olmert had received envelopes stuffed with dollars from Mr Talansky, a US citizen.
The hearing was held over a petition by Mr Olmert and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken’s lawyers against the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to hold a preliminary session to hear Mr Talansky’s evidence, enabling him to return to his home in Long Island. The Supreme Court refused the petition. In further questioning, Mr Talansky said that he had given Mr Olmert money not only for funding his political campaigns, contradicting what the Prime Minister said two weeks ago. Police suspect that Mr Talansky also financed private trips by Mr Olmert to the US.
Mr Olmert’s lawyers have asked that Mr Talansky’s testimony be postponed to give them time to go over evidence collected by the police, but the Jerusalem Attorney-General office has refused, claiming that the lawyers could have picked up the material earlier. Mr Talansky is demanding to leave the country by next Monday and is expected to give his testimony on Sunday.
Meanwhile, police are questioning Trade Ministry and Jerusalem City Hall officials to discover whether Mr Olmert intervened on behalf of Mr Talansky or any of his clients when he served as Mayor and Trade Minister.
In another development, an Israeli driver in New York told police that he transferred envelopes with money from US businessman S Daniel Abraham. Mr Abraham denied the story.
Mr Olmert has announced that he will resign if the Attorney General, Meni Mazuz, decides to press charges against him. It will take time to reach such a decision, but all three potential leaders of the ruling party Kadima, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit have stepped up their efforts to sign on new party members, in preparation for leadership primaries that will take place should Mr Olmert be forced to resign.