Olmert arriving at trial 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday
that he was unaware of the specifics behind how Rishon Tours and other travel
agencies counted air miles because he himself did not book his flights. On the
fourth day of his testimony, he denied that he exploited Rishon Tours’
frequent-flyer miles system when booking for himself or his family, hinting that
the agency might have had an interest in using funds from organizations instead
of available air miles.
Risby-Raz says no chance of fair trialState
censured in Olmert caseOlmert:
I was under attack from the day I took office
The former prime minister has been indicted on
charges that he billed two and sometimes three different organizations to pay
for his flight expenses when traveling abroad. He is accused of pocketing
roughly NIS 90,000 to pay for flight tickets and upgrades for family
“I flew countless trips the last number of years,” Olmert said,
adding that while he knew he had accumulated a large number of air miles with
many different companies, he was never aware of exactly how many points he had
collected from any specific travel agency.
The former prime minister said
that he had assumed that the more business or first class flights one flies, the
more miles one receives.
Olmert stressed that his travel coordinator,
Rachel Rizby-Raz, and Rishon Tours both knew what his miles situation was, and
that Rizby- Raz would not have been able to book flights if Rishon Tours was
unsure about his credit.
He said that he never discussed using surplus
miles for foreign flights with his travel coordinator.
The former prime
minister also hinted that perhaps someone in Rishon Tours actually tried to
profit off of his excess miles, purposefully failing to disclose information
about Olmert’s account.
He even asked why a representative of the travel
agency wasn’t present in the courtroom.
On Monday, Olmert conceded that
there may have been mistakes made in the payments for his flights, but rejected
the claim that he had knowingly swindled nonprofit organizations or that he was
criminally responsible for the acts he was accused of.
He has claimed
that because trips were organized months in advance, Rizby-Raz may have added on
additional sponsors as new events were scheduled in the time between the booking
and the actual flight.
Thursday’s testimony aimed to further distance
Olmert from the logistical goings on in his office. In the last two weeks of
testimony his lawyers have attempted to paint him as a busy man who sacrificed
his all to public service and was too occupied with matters of state to worry
himself over the mundane details of the office expenses.
The defense has
also attempted to establish the complete trust that Olmert put in his staff,
especially his personal aide Shula Zaken, to further stress his distance from
the alleged offenses.