Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now facing the likelihood of a fourth indictment, on charges that he handed out sinecures in the Authority for Small-and Medium-Sized Business to senior Likud Party members whose political support he needed while serving as Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment in 2004 and 2005.
The decision to indict him is conditional on the outcome of a hearing which the state prosecution is offering Olmert’s lawyers. Olmert waived his right to a hearing regarding three other affairs in which he has already been indicted, Rishontours, Talansky and the Investment Center.
“The head of the Economic Department in the State Attorney’s Office informed the attorneys of Mr. Ehud Olmert and Mr. Oved Yehezkel that ... the possibility is being considered of trying them on criminal charges regarding suspicions that they committed violations in this affair,” the Justice Ministry spokesman announced.
“The main suspicions are that throughout this period ... the suspects exploited their status and prerogatives in the various ministries they controlled and acted, in a conflict of interests, in an organized, systematic and broad manner to advance the interests of members of the Likud Central Committee, Likud activists and their friends.
“They did this in order to do them favors and to please them by helping them find work, and in responding to their requests on different matters involving the civil service officials in order to strengthen Olmert’s political position.”
Olmert, who in addition to heading the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Education also served at various times during 2004 and 2005 as deputy prime minister, minister of finance and minister of communications, did favors in various institutions including Bezeq, the Postal Authority, the Employment Service, the Small- and Medium-Sized Business Authority and the Israel Lands Authority. He is also suspected of appointing Likud activists as public representatives in the labor courts.
The state is considering charging Olmert and Yehezkel with fraud and breach of faith and of trying to influence those with the right to vote to vote for Olmert in return for the promise of future favors.
The hearing, if Olmert asks for one, will be held before Deputy
State Attorney for Criminal Matters Yehoshua Lemberger. Ministry
officials said they would be considerate of Olmert within reasonable
bounds, and would try not to make things hard for him in view of the
trial currently being conducted against him and “all the relevant
The police questioned 400 witnesses during the
investigation, which grew out of a much smaller one conducted by State
Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
political appointments in the Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses
Authority, which is a non-governmental body whose budget comes entirely
from the government via the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and
In a report published in 2006, Lindenstrauss found
that Olmert and his director-general, Raanan Dinur, changed the
constitution of the authority so that it would be more flexible
regarding the appointment of a chairperson and budget allocation.
that,” charged the state comptroller, “the heads of the Ministry of
Industry, Commerce and Employment used the authority as a springboard
for appointments based on political considerations and through improper
The heads of the ministry, including Olmert,
subsequently appointed a deputy director-general for the authority who
had personal and political ties to Olmert. One of her duties was to be
responsible for projects. Soon afterwards, the authority established
three new projects and appointed project heads for each.
state comptroller found that all three project heads were members of
the Likud Central Committee and that two of them had vied for the Likud
secretariat. They were hired according to a procedure which was “not
equal-opportunity, and improper,” Lindenstrauss charged. Two of the
three projects had not been originally included in the authority’s work
On October 14, 2007, then-attorney-general Menahem
Mazuz ordered police to investigate the allegations against Olmert and
others involved in both this case and the Investment Center affair.
Later, the state prosecution decided to separate the investigations,
largely because of Olmert’s attorney and close friend Uri Messer, who
was involved in the Talansky and the Investment Center affairs.
response to the Justice Ministry decision, Olmert’s public relations
spokesman Amir Dan published the following statement and asked that it
be published in full:
“1. The investigation into this matter
began more than two years ago and the timing of the prosecution’s
announcement at this precise moment raises hard questions with regard
to the calculations and good faith of those responsible for it.
For the past three weeks, we have witnesses a campaign of unrestrained
incitement against Olmert by law enforcement elements even though he
has not even been interrogated at all about Holyland and without being
asked a single question. The publication of the decision today is a
direct continuation of the publications from the previous weeks and is
part of a prolonged and planned persecution campaign at a time when we
are fully in the midst of a trial. This announcement will have a direct
and improper influence on anyone asked to testify during these days.
We are talking about a matter which has been blown out of all
proportion. There was nothing wrong with the procedure for appointing
these job-holders and many of them (in those cases where the law
requires it) were even approved by the Ravivi Committee, which is
responsible for investigating public service appointments. Furthermore,
no improper pressure was applied against anyone to approve these
appointments which were made in accordance with all the criteria
included in the law.
4. Does the law enforcement system really
have nothing else to do or no other way of making a name for itself,
other than by Olmert? It is surprising that the state prosecution has
not yet begun to investigate Olmert on suspicion that he did not cross
the street at a cross-walk.”