On the third day of cross-examination in Ehud Olmert’s corruption trial
Thursday, the former prime minister continued to clash with State Attorney Uri
Korb as he was questioned about the “cash envelopes” he allegedly received from
US businessman Moshe Talansky.
Throughout, Olmert continued to insist
that the funds Talansky had given him were donations for political activities or
reimbursements for expenses incurred during trips or events in which Talansky
had taken an interest.
Korb asked Olmert to explain why, during police
questioning in July 2008, he had described Talansky as a “crook.” Olmert said
that during the investigation and subsequent trial he had discovered certain
things about the businessman that he had not previously known.
attack anyone and everyone who causes problems for you, even your own people,
your lawyers, your media people,” Korb said.
Olmert responded angrily,
rejecting Korb’s “mean-spirited” words.
Korb later questioned the former
prime minister again about the $150,000 that Talansky gave to Olmert’s campaign
organization in 1999, asking whether he had heard about it either from the
businessman or from Uri Messer, Olmert’s associate who managed the
“At the time I was not aware of it,” Olmert replied. “I was not
informed that the money was from Talansky. It could be that at a later
time I did know.”
In questioning Olmert further about the $150,000, Korb
asked, “When someone donates $150,000, you don’t call him and thank him
personally?” Olmert replied that he had thanked Talansky personally but did not
remember exactly when.
Korb next questioned Olmert about testimony he
gave to police during his investigation in 2008 regarding cash Talansky
allegedly gave him. He asked Olmert whether during his time as minister of
industry and trade he had heard from Talansky or Shula Zaken, his former aide,
about donations in cash.
Korb read to Olmert a section from a protocol of
Talansky’s 2008 police questioning in which the businessman was asked whether he
had ever given Olmert or Zaken cash.
“They asked me for cash and so I
gave them cash,” Talansky said at that time.
“I never asked Talansky for donations in cash. I asked Talansky
to raise money for political campaigns. I did not ever ask for specific
sums in cash,” he responded.
Korb said Talansky told investigators he had
given Olmert cash on several occasions during meetings in New
Later, Korb read sections from the protocol in which investigators
asked the businessman to comment on the fact that Olmert had claimed never to
have received cash from him.
“What do I think about it, I know he’s a
liar, he’s a goniff [thief], I know he’s a liar,” Talansky said.
also read where Talansky told investigators he had given Olmert gifts of cigars
and pens. “When you love money, it’s never enough,” Talansky is quoted as having
Olmert replied by saying, “First I’m his friend, now I’m a liar and
a thief? Talansky did not ever give me cigars or pens or anything. It’s all
Throughout the cross examination, Korb repeatedly asked
Olmert to explain why he had not told investigators that he had received cash
from Talansky. During police questioning, Olmert denied receiving cash from
Talansky during his time as minister of industry and trade. Korb now asked him
why he did not even hint during his investigation that he had received cash from
The former prime minister answered that he understood at the
time that investigators were asking him about illegal monies and not political
“So every time the investigators asked you a simple question
about receiving cash, you answered as if they were asking you about illegal
monies?” Korb asked.
Olmert answered that he answered in the same context
to which he was asked.
“I say you chose to conceal the money you
received,” Korb said.
Later in the cross examination, Olmert told the
court that during his time as mayor of Jerusalem, he had received money “two or
three times” from Talansky to cover the expenses for events in which Talansky
was personally interested.
Korb further questioned Olmert about the
relationship between Talansky and Shula Zaken, Olmert’s former
Olmert responded that he did not know of any special relationship
between the two, but added that Talansky knew Zaken well and spoke to her in a
friendly manner, although the businessman spoke in English and Zaken in
The former prime minister clashed with Korb again later in the
cross examination when the prosecutor attempted to prove that Olmert had changed
his story between his first and second interrogations to match what Talansky had
said. Olmert was questioned by police at the beginning of May 2008 and again
three weeks later.
Olmert claimed that he could not have changed his
story because he did not read the protocols from Talansky’s questioning before
being questioned again by police.
The reason he gave was that as prime
minister he had been far too busy with other duties.
“When should I have
read [the protocols]? ” he told Korb. “Instead of dealing with the prime
minister of Romania? Instead of dealing with the prime minister of Latvia?
Instead of Tony Blair? Maybe I should have telephoned [former US president] Bush
or Abu Mazen and told them I was too busy because I had to read transcripts?”
When Korb responded that Olmert could have easily read the material instead of
watching a football match or sleeping, Olmert told him he should be “ashamed” of
“Any lawyer would have advised you to read the transcripts,”said
Korb, noting that Olmert himself is a qualified attorney.
claimed that his lawyers had only received the transcripts on May 20, 2008,
three days before his own scheduled interrogation.
questioned Olmert about his answers to police in the initial 2008 investigation
in which he had claimed never to have received cash from Talansky.
I opened the newspaper that morning I saw that I had been accused of receiving
illegal monies, so when I was asked [by investigators] ‘did you receive money,’
I said no, I did not,” answered Olmert.
Korb told Olmert he was
deliberately confusing political donations and cash from Talansky.
not confusing anything, I’m telling the truth,” said Olmert.
no cash, just donations.”
When Korb questioned Olmert about whether he
knew Zaken had received cash from Talansky while Olmert was minister of industry
and trade, Olmert said he he didn’t remember getting anything from Talansky at
The former prime minister also claimed he did not know that
Talansky had given $30,000 to his brother, Yossi Olmert. According to the
prosecution, Yossi Olmert received the money a day after a meeting took place
between the defendant and Talansky.
In testimony delivered in court last
year as part of the trial of Olmert and Zaken, Talansky confirmed that he
transferred $30,000 to Yossi Olmert in November 2004.
brother’s name has been linked to another corruption affair allegedly involving
the former prime minister – the Holyland scandal. There have been reports that
Ehud Olmert used some of the bribe money he allegedly received from the Holyland
developers to help him repay his debts.
Olmert insisted he had not known
that Talansky gave money to his brother and told the court that the meeting the
prosecution claimed he had with Talansky had never taken place.
cross examination is set to continue next week.