Ehud Olmert 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The fact that the police have recommended indicting former prime minister Ehud
Olmert for his alleged role in the Holyland affair, in which interested parties
paid millions of shekels in bribes to advance their development plans, does not
mean he will necessarily stand trial.
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The police have no authority to
indict suspects in the more important investigations they conduct, which
constitute about 15 percent of all criminal investigations carried out each
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The final decision in these cases is normally in the hands of the
In recent years, the state prosecution has usually
agreed with the preliminary assessment of the police and reached the same
conclusion regarding whether to indict or not.
However, there have been
some important exceptions to this rule. The most noteworthy, perhaps, was the
decision of former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz to close the case against
prime minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Gilad, in the Greek island affair,
after the police had recommending indicting him.
The police also
recommended indicting Olmert over the Bank Leumi affair, in which he was
suspected of interfering in the tender for the sale of the controlling interest
of the bank on behalf of his friends. They did the same in the Cremieux house
affair, in which Olmert was suspected of exploiting his connections with the
Jerusalem Municipality to win favors for the developer of the project. In
return, he allegedly bought his apartment for a sum far below its market
In both these cases, Mazuz disagreed with the police and closed
the file without pressing charges.
Eliad Shraga, the president of the
Movement for Quality Government, told The Jerusalem Post that despite these
occurrences, in most cases the prosecution and the police have been on the same
wavelength in the past few years.
One of the reasons for this unanimity
is that a senior representative of the state prosecution accompanies all key
investigations conducted by the police, including – perhaps especially – those
involving senior public figures.
In these high-profile cases, the police
also report to the head of the prosecution at various stages of the
Thus, he or she is wellinformed at all times and can
provide input to the investigation in real time.
It should be pointed
out, however, that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is not involved in the
Holyland affair at all. Since he was due to represent Olmert in the Rishontours
affair, in which the former prime minister is accused of double- and
triplebilling the state, public organizations and charities for flights to
fund-raising appearances abroad, Weinstein is prohibited from involvement in any
investigation involving his former client. The official who will make the final
decision in the Holyland case is State Attorney Moshe Lador.
case broke last April, one of the first suspects named was Olmert’s close
personal friend and attorney Uri Messer, who was suspected of having channeled
bribe money to a “senior public figure.” Given the fact that Olmert was mayor of
Jerusalem when many of the bribes were allegedly distributed, and the fact that
Messer was his closest friend, it was clear that Olmert must have been the
senior public figure referred to by police.
The alleged nexus between
Messer and Olmert in the Holyland affair could have had, and might still have,
serious repercussions for the Olmert trial already under way regarding two of
the charges regarding which Messer was due to serve as state’s witness and
testify against Olmert – the Talansky and Investment Center affairs.
news of the Holyland scandal broke, the prosecution asked the court to suspend
the hearings on both. The prosecution indicated that if Messer were involved in
Holyland scandal, his status as a state’s witness in the Talansky and Investment
Center affairs might be withdrawn and that he might stand trial in these cases
Now it has emerged that the police do not recommend charging
Messer in the Holyland affair due to lack of evidence. If Lador accepts this
recommendation, it appears that the court will be able to resume hearings on the
Talansky and Investment Center charges whenever it wants.
meantime, since April, the court has been hearing the Rishontours case, in which
Messer is not involved.