Police urge third Olmert indictment

National Fraud Unit: Evidence sufficient to indict outgoing PM with breach of public trust and fraud.

March 5, 2009 12:29
3 minute read.
Police urge third Olmert indictment

olmert sad 298.88. (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky)

Police have amassed enough evidence for state prosecutors to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for breach of trust and fraud in the Investment Center affair, the National Fraud Unit announced on Thursday. Between 2003 and 2006, while he was industry, trade and labor minister, Olmert allegedly ensured that a silica factory that his close associate and former legal partner, Uri Messer, was hired to endorse, would receive a generous grant from the ministry's Investment Center. The factory went on to be built near Dimona with the help of the $15 million injection of cash from the center. "The investigation has found that Olmert did indeed act from a position of a deep conflict of interests, as he did not remove himself from the proceedings, making decisions vis-a-vis the Investment Center over a number of projects proposed by lawyer Uri Messer, who is associated with Olmert," the police said in a statement. "Olmert and Messer were legal partners in the past. After Olmert left their joint legal practice, they remained in touch for many years," the statement continued. The police recommendation is seen as more of a formality than an operative recommendation since state prosecutors have been working closely with the National Fraud Unit in all of the Olmert investigations. According to former National Fraud Unit senior investigator Dep-Cmdr. (ret.) Boaz Guttman, Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel and other prosecutors have accompanied police throughout the Olmert investigations, and have had ongoing access to the case materials. Amir Dan, spokesman for Olmert, slammed the recommendation, saying the premier was only interested in furthering the national interest. "Olmert, as trade and industry minister, acted as all ministers in the State of Israel are expected to act, with the development of the Negev in mind," Dan said. "The attempt to transform personal relationships to criminal offenses is unreasonable." "Olmert had only one goal - to help create hundreds of job opportunities in Dimona and the Negev and to fight bureaucracy, which for years delayed investments that were intended to help develop the Negev," Dan said. "Only a week ago, a recognition ceremony was arranged by Israel industry in honor of the prime minister, [thanking him] for the hundreds of decisions that he made for the advancement of industry and the creation of new jobs." "These decisions and recommendations [to indict Olmert], especially now, are not coincidental, and they come in the hopes that the quantity will blur the weakness of the allegations," Dan said. On Sunday, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said he planned to indict Olmert on a host of charges including fraud, bribery, violation of public confidence and receiving a goods fraudulently, based on the police investigation into the cash envelopes affair. Olmert illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Long Island businessman Morris Talansky, in exchange for advancing the mogul's business interests, police said. Messser allegedly played a key role in both the Investment Center and the Talansky cases, former Israel Police chief investigator Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi told The Jerusalem Post. In the Talansky affair, police found that Messer handled the large sums of cash sent from Talansky to Olmert, and acted as Olmert's cashier, distributing the money whenever Olmert needed it. "The Investment Center investigation was upgraded because of the Talansky affair. Previously, police were on their way to burying the Investment Center investigation. There was talk of insufficient evidence and closing the case. The police would not have pushed for an indictment based on a conflict of interests alone," Mizrahi said. "Before Messer's role in both investigations emerged, Olmert could have defended himself as fighting to help the South by encouraging industry there. There was no case here before Talansky came along," Mizrahi said. But as soon as the Talansky affair was exposed, leading police to realize that Messer was Olmert's middle man, the manager of funds, the older Investment Center investigation became far more severe in the police's eyes. "It has now been established that Messer was the cashier who distributed the funds, and Olmert, as industry, trade and labor minister, intervened on behalf of Messer to help along an investment that Messer was hired to promote," Mizrahi said. "This goes to show how one little servant [Messer] can solve everything," Mizrahi said. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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