The state attorney announced on Tuesday that Morris Talansky, the witness who
toppled former prime minister Ehud Olmert, will testify against him in the
Holyland trial before Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen on
Along with 15 other defendants accused of bribery and fraud,
Olmert is accused of receiving millions of shekels in bribes in the Tel Aviv
Talansky, an American citizen, was the main witness against Olmert
in the Jerusalem corruption trial that ended with a general acquittal in July
2012 and is on appeal before the Supreme Court for July 2013.
testified on behalf of the state that Olmert had received large sums of cash
from him in envelopes that Olmert did not report.
The Jerusalem District
Court ultimately acquitted Olmert in the Talansky Affair, criticizing him
heavily and finding that he had received envelopes of cash, but also deciding
that prosecutors failed to prove the requisite level of intent for a
Although Olmert was not convicted in the Talansky Affair, an
unusual procedure in which Talansky testified prior to Olmert being indicted
forced the former prime minister to resign much earlier than he might have had
Olmert was convicted only of breach of public trust in the
more minor Investment Affair.
Unlike the Jerusalem corruption trial,
Talansky is not the main witness in the Holyland case.
Moreover, while he
had always been listed theoretically as a witness, until Tuesday no one had
received any sign that he would be willing to testify in the case.
could not have compelled Talansky to testify since he lives in the US and is not
an Israeli citizen.
The state’s press release was ambiguous about how far
in advance the testimony had been planned.
While the release said that
Talansky was “on the witness list” and was “not a new witness,” it also said
that he came to Israel for a visit for unrelated reasons.
statement said that “once the prosecution learned of his visit, it requested
that the court summon him to testify.”
According to the statement,
Talansky is already in Israel and arrived “a few days ago.” The state appeared
to suggest that room was made for Talansky to testify by happenstance – namely,
that the main Holyland witness, referred to only as S.D. under a gag order, was
hospitalized on Monday, and that while he would return on Sunday, he would
testify for only a few hours.
The shorter-than-expected testimony from
S.D. left room for Talansky, who will testify in the early afternoon immediately
after S.D. finishes.
It was unclear what Talansky would testify to as he
was not directly involved in the Holyland project.
Yet media reports
speculated that the state would use him to try to show a pattern of Olmert’s
conduct in questionable business dealings, claiming that allegedly problematic
conduct with Talansky shows his disputed conduct in the Holyland trial was
If so, it could be a high stakes strategy as the court in the
Jerusalem corruption trial find Talansky’s testimony highly questionable and
inconsistent, while accepting specific aspects of his narrative.
Dan, Olmert’s spokesman, responded to the news, saying: “Five years ago the head
state prosecutor appeared before the court and depicted a horror show in which
Talansky would go and disappear and would never return to Israel. This
declaration was what justified the exceptional procedure of pretrial testimony,
which led to the stepping down of an Israeli prime minister.”
that Talansky’s “return to testify” shows that “there was nothing” behind the
prosecution’s claims and that these claims led to “a change in the State of
Israel’s government for nothing.”