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The state prosecution will conduct a preliminary examination into a complaint against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regarding two real estate transactions that he conducted, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Monday.
The announcement was included in a letter Mazuz's assistant, Raz Nizri, sent to Aryeh Avneri, head of the watchdog organization Ometz, who recently lodged a complaint over the affair.
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Meanwhile, in a related development, Olmert met for 45 minutes with three investigators from the State Comptroller's Office regarding his actions in another real estate transaction made by Olmert.
It is not uncommon for the attorney general to order an "examination" into a complaint. This step comes before ordering a formal police investigation and is meant to determine whether there is sufficient prima facie evidence to warrant a police investigation. The same procedure was used in the cases of President Ezer Weizman, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and other prominent figures.
The allegations that the state prosecution is examining were first raised in investigative reports by Channel 10 News and journalist Yoav Yitzhak, publisher of the internet site, News First Class. On September 11, Channel 10 reported that Olmert and his wife, Aliza, sold a house in Jerusalem's Nahlaot quarter in 1996 to a wealthy American Jew, Uri Harkam, for $650,000, some $250 million above the market rate. Harkam sold the house four years later for $400,000.
On September 12, Nfc reported that in 2004, Olmert purchased an apartment in Tel Aviv's trendy Shenkin quarter for $320,000, more than $100,000 less than the average price of three other, similar apartments built by the contractor in the same housing project.
Olmert denied any wrongdoing in both cases after the details were published.
Meanwhile, an investigating team appointed by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus questioned Olmert at his home in the afternoon regarding the Prime Minister's purchase of a home on 8 Cremieux St. in Jerusalem's German Colony.
According to the allegations, the contractor, Gil Mastai, sold a garden apartment to Olmert and his wife for at least $320,000 less than the true asking price. According to the suspicions, the house was earmarked for preservation, and therefore could not be altered or expanded. Nonetheless, Mastai was able to add about 420 square meters to the existing building, enough for two more apartments. Olmert is suspected of using his influence to get the municipality to increase the building rights.
Others suspected of involvement in the alleged deal include City Engineer Uri Sheetrit, Mastai, Yehoshua Pollock, chairman of the local planning and building committee and senior municipal employees.
The contract was signed in October 2004. At the time, Olmert served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment and was also in charge of the Israel Lands Authority.