Olmert Holyland probe lasts 8 hours

Former PM's US brother also suspected of receiving bribes.

By
May 26, 2010 05:03
2 minute read.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert talks to the pre

olmert at court 311 AJ. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

After weeks of speculation over how former prime minister Ehud Olmert would be questioned and whether he would be arrested over his alleged role in the Holyland bribery investigation, the ex-premier faced eight hours of questioning under caution at National Fraud Unit headquarters in Lod on Tuesday morning.

Facing several detectives in the interrogation room, Olmert answered all questions put to him, and did not resort to his right to remain silent at any stage, police sources and his spokesman, Amir Dan, said.

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“Olmert was not surprised by any of the questions put to him and did not hesitate to answer them all,” Dan said.

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Police suspect that during his term as Jerusalem mayor (1993 to 2003) and later as minister of trade, industry and labor (2003 to 2006), Olmert received more than NIS 1 million in bribes from businessmen backing the Holyland residential development in the capital, in exchange for which, police suspect, he worked to ensure that an enlarged construction plan for the site received approval.

Olmert denies all suspicions against him.

Police sources said he faced questions from a number of National Fraud Unit detectives simultaneously, and was asked to respond to suspicions that he accepted bribes, misused his public office, and laundered cash in the Holyland affair.

He was asked about his relationship with key Holyland suspects such as businessman Hillel Charni, who is suspected of being the chief bribe-giver. Olmert denied receiving bribes from Charni and denied receiving illicit cash through his former aides, Shula Zaken and Uri Messer.

Olmert was also asked about his motives for supporting the Holyland project throughout critical periods when it required approvals. He denied that his was motivated by any illegitimate interests.

A police source told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the National Fraud Unit’s 120 detectives had been divided into six task forces and tasked with managing six investigations of various suspicions that had come to light since a state’s witness came forward with allegedly incriminating information over the Holyland affair.

“Olmert is not the main story here. This is not like previous investigations that centered around him,” the source said.

The police source indicated that Olmert would be questioned a few more times before the National Fraud Unit would complete its investigation into his activities. He has been ordered to return to the National Fraud Unit headquarters on Sunday morning for a second interrogation, during which he is expected to be confronted with allegedly incriminating documents relating to the transfer of bribe funds. Police have prohibited him from speaking to any other Holyland suspects in the coming weeks.

Earlier this month, the National Fraud Unit expanded its investigation to the US, as part of an effort to check whether Olmert transferred bribes he allegedly received from businessmen to his brother, Middle East analyst Yossi Olmert, who left Israel in 2004 due to heavy debts.

Prosecutors are seeking a permit from the US to check whether money was transferred into Yossi Olmert’s American bank account, and the National Fraud Unit has dispatched an investigator to the US as part of the investigation.


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