Olmert arriving at trial 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On Monday, the fifth day of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s testimony to the
Jerusalem District Court, he continued to deny all involvement in the Rishon
Tours double-billing affair.
Olmert was asked about several documents
that he had signed off on relating to his travel plans, among them on
correspondence with the accountant-general of the Industry, Trade and Labor
Olmert: I didn't book my flights, was 'unaware' of my miles
Olmert denies direct involvement in double billing affair
In one instance, Olmert told his travel planner Rachel Rizby
Raz to make sure that the office reported on his travel plans ahead of the trip
and not after it. In another he testified on his desire to have the various
ministry departments cooperate better to avoid conflicts and
Although he said he didn’t remember any of the
details, Olmert addressed the letters’ contents, conjecturing on the reasoning
behind what was written in his handwriting.
“I might have known that we
turned to Rishon Tours, but I don’t remember it ever being a problem. I also
don’t remember the accountant-general ever indicating that there was a problem
with the way we booked tickets with the travel agency,” Olmert said.
presented with the prosecution’s argument that the office staff worked with
Rishon Tours despite a prohibition to do so, since the company had not won the
tender to provide him with travel services, Olmert said he didn’t know about the
prohibition or even about the tender.
“This was trivial in my eyes; as
long as the government approved my flights, I didn’t concern myself with these
details,” Olmert said.
“I never gave instructions about continuing to
work with Rishon Tours,” he stressed.
When asked whether the
accountant-general approved his flights, Olmert testified that he never asked
“I never, in all my travels, had to ask permission for
travels from the accountant-general so he could get approval for government
budgeting. I never spoke to him. It is unheard of that a minister would ask the
accountant-general for such a thing,” Olmert said. “This is something that the
prosecution made up in order to found their baseless claims.”
spoke about tense relations between him and the accountant-general, saying he
wasn’t sure that he could work with him, but rejecting the conjecture that the
poor relations were over the travel expenses.
Olmert’s lawyer asked him
to address the main charges in the indictment, relating to the supposed intent
to accumulate travel funds in his Rishon Tours account and Olmert’s use of the
funds he received from different organizations to pay for his family’s flights
and for upgrades for him and his family, and of his staff’s efforts to present
inflated expenses for Rishon Tours to charge the organizations.
claims about me having an account with Rishon Tours are completely baseless. I
never knew that such an account existed. No one told me about it. I never knew
that there were excesses of flight funds. I never instructed my staff to do
anything of the sort that is described,” Olmert said. “The prosecution created a
monster so they could charge me. I never instructed Rachel Rizby Raz or
Shula Zaken to take actions to accumulate funds. Such a thing never
“I was never involved in flight bookings or
payment. There may have been several specific instances, which I have
addressed, when things were brought to my attention. But as a rule I
simply didn’t deal with those things,” Olmert said. “When there were travel
funding deficits, I don’t remember anyone accusing me of being responsible for
Olmert characterized the prosecutions case as
“The whole conception that there was a ‘system’ is
ridiculous. I’ve already said that mistakes were made and that I am sorry
for them, but the attempt to present the actions as an orchestrated system is
simply an unfounded attack by the prosecution, which in my opinion is tainted by
When asked about a specific instance of double billing for a
February 2008 flight to Belgium and the US, which the prosecution alleged was
paid for by both the World Jewish Congress and the American Friends of the IDF,
Olmert said he didn’t know about the billing actions and that nobody ever told
him about it. He even quoted a Rishon Tours employee who testified in court that
she was embarrassed to speak about the affair because Olmert was never
The defense then examined each of the trips that appeared in
the indictment, with Olmert speaking about what he recalled from the trips,
including the organizations he worked with, the events he participated in and
the causes he advocated for, but continuing to deny any knowledge of the way the
trips were paid for.
“I didn’t travel for rest or relaxation. I traveled
for work. I worked intensively and immediately returned and went back to work
here in Israel,” he said.