A-G orders police to begin probing PM

Olmert allegedly intervened in tender for controlling stake in Bank Leumi.

October 29, 2006 22:20
2 minute read.
A-G orders police to begin probing PM

Olmert mean 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday asked the police to conduct a preliminary investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's role in the sale of the controlling interest of Bank Leumi. According to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus, Olmert may have acted illegally by allegedly intervening in the government tender for the sale of the controlling interest of the bank on behalf of friends and relatives. The Justice Ministry said Sunday that Lindenstraus last week submitted to Mazuz the findings of an examination he conducted into the sale of the shares, along with a recommendation that there was evidence justifying a criminal investigation against Olmert. According to reports, however, Lindenstraus actually submitted his recommendation to Mazuz three months earlier, while his own investigation of the sale was still going on. Mazuz was reportedly upset that Lindenstraus had turned to him before completing his own investigation. Nevertheless, he handed the matter over to State Attorney Eran Shendar for a preliminary investigation, a routine act when it comes to senior elected officials. Last week, after learning that Mazuz was upset with Lindenstraus for making the recommendation before completing his own work, the state comptroller abruptly wound up the investigation and sent the material to Mazuz along with another recommendation to investigate. In the wake of the recommendation, Mazuz convened a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Shuki Lemberger, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, head of the police Intelligence and Investigation Department, Dep.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon and others. The participants asked the police to carry out "a number of tasks necessary to prepare an opinion on how to deal with the allegations - within the context of the preliminary investigation - in order to broaden the factual basis that the opinion will rely on. This will make it possible to decide whether there is enough evidence to justify opening a criminal investigation." According to the allegations, which first appeared in public on October 15 in a report by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak, Olmert, who was appointed acting finance minister in August 2005, intervened in the tender for the privatization of Bank Leumi on behalf of several personal friends with whom he also had business connections. One of them was Daniel Abrams, who had contributed to Olmert's election campaign for mayor of Jerusalem. Abrams bought Olmert's apartment on Jerusalem's Kaf Tet B'November St. and rented it back to him at allegedly well under the market rate. Yitzhak charged that while the tender bids were being accepted and several of Abrams friends were trying to get him involved, Olmert did not reveal the special relations between them. Another close friend of Olmert, Frank Lowy, an Australian Jewish businessman, also made a bid for control of the bank. Lowy was represented by a law firm owned by Olmert's brother-in-law, Yossi Gross. Yitzhak wrote that since Lowy lost the bid, another friend of Olmert, Alfred Akirov, had been trying to persuade the winners to involve the law firm in Bank Leumi. Olmert also allegedly changed some of the terms of the tender to benefit his friends, Yitzhak reported.

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