olmert at court 311 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After weeks of speculation over how former prime
minister Ehud Olmert would be questioned and whether he would be
arrested over his alleged role in the Holyland bribery investigation,
the ex-premier faced eight hours of questioning under caution at
National Fraud Unit headquarters in Lod on Tuesday morning.Olmert was also asked about his motives for
supporting the Holyland project throughout critical periods when it
required approvals. He denied that his was motivated by any
Facing several detectives in the interrogation room, Olmert answered
all questions put to him, and did not resort to his right to remain
silent at any stage, police sources and his spokesman, Amir Dan, said.
“Olmert was not surprised by any of the questions put to him and did not hesitate to answer them all,” Dan said.
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Police suspect that during his term as Jerusalem mayor (1993 to 2003) and later as minister of trade, industry and labor (2003 to 2006), Olmert received more than NIS 1 million in bribes from businessmen backing the Holyland residential development in the capital, in exchange for which, police suspect, he worked to ensure that an enlarged construction plan for the site received approval.
Olmert denies all suspicions against him.
Police sources said he faced questions from a number of National Fraud Unit detectives simultaneously, and was asked to respond to suspicions that he accepted bribes, misused his public office, and laundered cash in the Holyland affair.
He was asked about his relationship with key Holyland suspects such as businessman Hillel Charni, who is suspected of being the chief bribe-giver. Olmert denied receiving bribes from Charni and denied receiving illicit cash through his former aides, Shula Zaken and Uri Messer.
A police source told The
Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the National Fraud Unit’s 120
detectives had been divided into six task forces and tasked with
managing six investigations of various suspicions that had come to
light since a state’s witness came forward with allegedly incriminating
information over the Holyland affair.
“Olmert is not the main story here. This is not like previous investigations that centered around him,” the source said.
police source indicated that Olmert would be questioned a few more
times before the National Fraud Unit would complete its investigation
into his activities. He has been ordered to return to the National
Fraud Unit headquarters on Sunday morning for a second interrogation,
during which he is expected to be confronted with allegedly
incriminating documents relating to the transfer of bribe funds. Police
have prohibited him from speaking to any other Holyland suspects in the
Earlier this month, the National Fraud Unit
expanded its investigation to the US, as part of an effort to check
whether Olmert transferred bribes he allegedly received from
businessmen to his brother, Middle East analyst Yossi Olmert, who left
Israel in 2004 due to heavy debts.
Prosecutors are seeking a
permit from the US to check whether money was transferred into Yossi
Olmert’s American bank account, and the National Fraud Unit has
dispatched an investigator to the US as part of the investigation.