Former prime minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with his defense minister, Ehud Barak.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An NGO asked Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday to investigate taped allegations by prime minister Ehud Olmert against his then defense minister, Ehud Barak, for taking millions of dollars in bribes as part of arms and weapons transactions.
The NGO’s letter to Weinstein came following Channel 10’s airing on Friday of tape-recorded conversations between Olmert and his former top aide, Shula Zaken, in which he tells her of the allegations.
Barak has reportedly denied the charges.
The television network obtained audio recordings of Olmert’s conversations with Zaken, who last week consummated her status as the state’s star witness against her decades-long boss in a retrial of the Talansky Affair.
In the tapes, Olmert is heard telling Zaken that Barak “has millions, tens of millions, stashed away in secret bank accounts in Switzerland, or somewhere,” which he allegedly illegally skimmed off weapons deals.
Olmert made no specific or concrete allegations – which could make any serious investigation unlikely, or, at the very least, an uphill battle.
But in light of the personalities involved, the Movement of Citizens for Good Governance and Social and Legal Justice argued that Weinstein needed to investigate the allegation, at the very least to remove the cloud over the issue.
Barak served as Olmert’s defense minister after recapturing the Labor Party chairmanship in June 2007. The relationship between the two deteriorated into acrimony in late 2008 when Barak threatened to pull his party out of Olmert’s coalition unless the prime minister resigned to answer a slew of corruption charges.
Olmert was convicted and sentenced in the spring to six years in prison for his role in the Holyland real estate affair, regarding which he has filed an appeal.
Another name that surfaced in the NGO’s letter and appears to be referred to in the taped conversations is that of former Mossad head Meir Dagan.
The NGO’s letter questioned what Dagan may have reported to Olmert about Barak, and if there were any irregularities regarding that reporting and any possible lack of follow-up on the issue.
It referenced business deals from the Olmert coalition era that it had called into question at the time, but which it claims were never sufficiently investigated.
There is a debate between Olmert’s team and Channel 10 as to whether the particular conversations in question were under gag order, though by Sunday their content had been widely reported.
The conversations have not arisen in the Talansky retrial as they do not pertain to allegations against Olmert.
The majority of the tapes being played publicly and connected to the Talansky retrial involve Olmert and Zaken discussing strategy, Zaken’s role in the case and to what extent, if any, Olmert illegally convinced her not to testify in the first Talansky trial that ended with his July 2012 acquittal or to lie on his behalf in the Holyland trial.
Channel 10 noted that there is no independent corroboration of Olmert’s allegations against Barak.