Jerusalem DA travels to US to pursue Olmert investigations

October 19, 2008 23:40
2 minute read.

Jerusalem District Attorney for Criminal Affairs, Eli Abarbanel, is in the US at the head of a delegation to wrap up the investigation into two scandals involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, the Justice Ministry spokesman said Sunday. The spokesman would not confirm or deny, but did not rule out that Abarbanel might try to persuade US officials to grant immunity to businessman Moshe Talansky, the state's key witness in the affair, which involves alleged illegal contributions to Olmert while he served as Jerusalem mayor and industry, trade and labor minister. The delegation includes police investigators. State Attorney Moshe Lador officially asked the US to grant Talansky immunity from prosecution. According to Yediot Aharonot, an FBI delegation visited Israel last month to discuss the request. The police have recommended indicting Olmert in both affairs. In the Rishon Tours case, the prime minister is suspected of double-billing non-profit organizations which paid for his trips to the US and using the extra money to fund private family trips. Olmert is also suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions from Talansky. In July, Talansky underwent direct examination by the state and cross-examination by lawyers representing Olmert and his close aide, Shula Zaken, who is also a suspect in this affair. His court appearances were accepted as pre-trial testimony even though no one has been indicted yet. He was due to return in last summer for further cross-examination by Olmert's and Zaken's lawyers, but refused to do so after discovering that he was being probed by the FBI based on the testimony he had given to the Israeli court. During his testimony, Talansky was questioned about money transfers he had made to Israel amounting to $300,000 which was allegedly used to cover Olmert's election campaign debts, as well as cash gifts amounting to as much as $150,000. The state prosecution is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to indict Olmert on one or both of the affairs. Abarbanel and the police investigators will question witnesses in the US in an attempt to answer last-minute questions that have arisen during the state's assessment of the evidence gathered by police in both affairs. Finding out whether the US will grant Talansky immunity could have an impact on whether the state can indict Olmert in that case, since he is the only witness with first-hand knowledge of the amount of money he gave to Olmert and how he gave it to him.

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