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(photo credit: Channel 10)
An indictment may be on the way in one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's numerous criminal investigations, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced Sunday evening after a final review of the so-called "cash envelopes" affair with State Attorney Moshe Lador.
Mazuz informed Olmert's attorney he was considering charging the prime minister for a string of offenses stemming from the affair.
The announcement was a formality to allow Olmert the option of a hearing with Mazuz before the attorney-general makes a final decision. Justice Ministry officials said the indictments could include charges of fraud, bribery, violation of public confidence and receiving a goods fraudulently.
The cash envelopes affair, starring colorful New York businessman and charitable fund-raiser Morris Talansky, emerged early in 2008. In April, Mazuz decided that suspicions justified a criminal investigation into whether Olmert had received cash bribes when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister.
On Sunday, both Mazuz and Lador agreed to proceed with the case after reviewing the evidence gathered by the Israel Police's National Fraud Unit.
Justice Ministry officials described in detail the suspicions against the prime minister. His relationship with Talansky, they said, began in the early 1990s and was based on "what Talansky described as his identification with the policies that Olmert expressed and on the basis of Talansky's identifying Olmert as a promising key public and political figure."
Olmert, they alleged, "took advantage through the years of his status and his positions in a systematic and continuous way in order to receive support from Talansky in financial matters."
In 1993, investigators said, Olmert received funds from Talansky for his mayoral election campaign. Four years later, Talansky transferred NIS 140,500 into what allegedly was a personal account Olmert held jointly with his wife Aliza at a Bank Hapoalim branch in the capital. This marked the beginning of a steady stream of funds that crossed the Atlantic and found their way to Olmert, investigators said.
Olmert in turn allegedly acted as a go-between, writing letters of introduction between Talansky and wealthy potential business partners. The Justice Ministry alleged that Olmert "acted to hide the nature of his relationship with Talansky, including from the state comptroller."
But the prime minister's relations with Talansky were far from the only aspect of the affair that Mazuz believed were prosecutable. The Justice Ministry also emphasized that Olmert allegedly maintained a "secret fund" managed by his former law partner Uri Messer.
That fund, it said, contained hundreds of thousands of dollars. Investigators said some of the money allegedly originated with Talansky, but were not sure about the rest.
The decision to proceed with the case came despite the fact that Talansky had yet to complete his police testimony. Although he had said he would speak with The Jerusalem Post regarding the allegations, he hung up without comment.
Justice Ministry officials also said that in the near future, the "Investments Center" affair - another one of the investigations plaguing the outgoing prime minister - was going to come up for final review regarding whether to file an indictment.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.