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Sunday's decision to investigate the prime minister regarding political appointments and cronyism was "shameful," attorney Yehoshua Resnik, the former deputy state attorney for criminal affairs who prosecuted Aryeh Deri, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
He was commenting on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's decision to launch a police investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on suspicion that he made political appointments while serving as minister of industry and commerce under prime minister Ariel Sharon and that he approved requests for government grants to potential investors who were represented by his former partner and close friend, Uri Messer.
Resnik said the only serious allegation that would be worthy of investigation was whether Olmert was paid off materially for the favors he allegedly granted.
The state has not mentioned any such suspicions and so it appears that in each of the two essentially separate cases, Olmert could be charged only with fraud and breach of faith - which, according to Resnik, are not "the most serious of crimes."
Resnik told the Post it was difficult to convict a politician on charges of making political appointments. The only politician who has been indicted for such conduct is Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi.
Hanegbi was charged with fraud and breach of faith. Two other charges stemmed from a flyer he had published, which boasted about his political appointments to persuade Likud central committee members to vote for him.
There is no mention of similar behavior on Olmert's part, Resnik said, adding that it was difficult to determine the criminal element in making political appointments.
There was also a problem in proving that the orders for the appointments came directly from the politician, he said. In Hanegbi's case, investigators had tried to determine whether Hanegbi's office tampered with job definitions or qualification to appoint their people because it would be easier to convict on such grounds.
In the case of the political appointments, Resnik added, it was obvious that the gain that Olmert was after was political support. But even though relations between politicians and political cronies is a "sick," one, he said, it was not "criminally sick. It is known that politicians distribute jobs."
As for the charges involving Messer, Resnik said the allegations against Olmert appeared to focus on the fact that he personally took part in Investment Center meetings in which the potential investors were Messer's clients.
In and of itself, he said, this appeared to be an "aesthetic or ethical" problem but not a crime. The state would have to prove that whoever approved the Investment Center benefits received something in return. "The allegations in this matter look very shaky," he said.
Given the weaknesses of both cases and that Olmert committed the acts in a previous job, Mazuz should not have ordered the investigation, Resnik said. This was particularly true, he said, since Olmert was currently serving as prime minister.
According to Resnik, the only serious investigation currently underway against Olmert was the Cremieux St. affair. In that case, Olmert is suspected of receiving a deduction of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the price of his home in return for using his influence to obtain substantial building concessions for the contractor from the Jerusalem Municipality.
In this case - should the attorney-general conclude that this indeed is what happened - the material benefit to Olmert would be clear-cut. This would not be a matter of breach of faith but of accepting a bribe - a far more serious crime, according to Resnik, and certainly one worthy of investigation.
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