Analysis: Olmert indictment likely, but not definite

Decision on Holyland case is attorney-general's decision, not police's.

By DAN IZENBERG
August 24, 2010 01:36
3 minute read.
EHUD OLMERT

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.

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 year.

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The final decision in these cases is normally in the hands of the attorney-general.

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 value.

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 investigation.

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.

When the 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.

When 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 as well.

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.

In the meantime, since April, the court has been hearing the Rishontours case, in which Messer is not involved.


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