olmert with lopolianski 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The accusation of bribery is the most severe offense police can level against a public official, but it is also the hardest to prove in a court of law.
As Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi, former head of the Israel Police Investigations Branch, who headed up many bribery investigations in his time, including the one that led to David Appel’s conviction on Thursday, told The Jerusalem Post this week, “There is nothing worse for elected officials than being accused of bribery. Yes, abuse of public office is bad, as are charges of a conflict of interests, forging documents and making false statements. But the cream of the crop of corruption – so to speak – is bribery.”
Indeed, if Ehud Olmert is indicted for bribery, the episode would overshadow the other cases the embattled ex-premier is facing in court, including the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs.
At the same time, Mizrahi noted, bribery “is the hardest offense to prove.”
At one time, a public official in Israel could have been indicted on bribery charges simply for receiving a large gift. “Once it was simple,” Mizrahi said. “The assumption is that the gift was given as part of an expectation for a favor down the line. All you had to do was prove that the gift was given.”
But today, thanks to new legislation, police must get hold of evidence that sheds light on what the suspected official did in exchange for being bribed, and how the official abused his or her office.
So where does that leave Olmert?
Police are now working hard to find “supportive evidence” regarding Olmert’s alleged bribery offenses, which could back up testimony by a state witness, Mizrahi said.
Without access to confidential case material, it is difficult to know how much evidence exists against the former prime minister, but a number of hints can be used to try and evaluate the strength of the police’s case, Mizrahi said.
“The police are definitely getting somewhere if [former Jerusalem mayor Uri] Lupolianski and Olmert are blaming one another for approving the Holyland project,” Mizrahi said.
On the other hand, if efforts to gather supportive evidence fail, police will end up being “stuck with a serious problem,” he added.
He added that during his time in the police, the legal system would
routinely throw out corruption cases and free suspects in affairs that
today would likely end up in prosecutions.
One factor working in favor of police is the change in the public attitude toward corruption, Mizrahi said.
“Today, there is public support, and support from the legal system for
police investigating corruption. The level of corruption has led to a
zero tolerance approach,” he said.