Olmert won't face trial over Leumi

Justice Arbel: Not enough evidence to indict ex-PM.

August 6, 2010 02:52
3 minute read.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Ehud Olmert 311 AP Good Quality. (photo credit: AP)


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The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition filed by the Ometz good government watchdog group asking that the court instruct the state prosecution to once again consider filing charges against former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi shares case.

The court cited a lack of sufficient evidence to file criminal charges.

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In January 2007, a criminal investigation was initiated against Olmert focused on suspicions that during his tenure as finance minister, he tried to steer the tender for the sale of the state’s shares in Bank Leumi to help Slovak-born Australian real estate tycoon Frank Lowy, a close personal associate. The police investigated the case and eventually concluded that the evidence was insufficient for an indictment.

While Justice Edna Arbel said on Thursday that State Attorney Moshe Lador’s reasons for closing the case had been sufficient, she also criticized his decision not pursue the case further.

“The picture that arises from the state attorney’s decision [to close the case] does not leave the reader with a comfortable feeling,” Arbel said. “Even if [Lador] had found that there was not enough proof to present a petition, the picture that comes from the proof that does exist is worrying.

“A situation in which families and friends are mixed up in the sale of state property that affects the stability of the market is not a matter to be taken lightly,” she continued.

A spokesman for Olmert praised the High Court’s decision, saying that the privatization had been undertaken legally and had in fact benefited the economy.

“[Olmert’s] sale of bank shares was done properly, wisely, transparently and was of great use to the Israeli economy,” Olmert’s media adviser, Amir Dan, said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.

“The Supreme Court has unequivocally ruled that Mr.

Olmert performed no criminal act, and the prosecution and police have determined this as well.”

“All other comments by the court are opinions worthy of study,” Dan continued. “But they are not legally binding, nor do they place blame on the intentions or the business-like manner in which Mr. Olmert went about selling the bank shares.”

Ometz: Citizens for Fair Government and Social Justice had petitioned the court regarding the decision to halt proceedings in the case, saying that Lador’s decision not to send Olmert to trial was unreasonable, and that there was proof Olmert had hidden a conflict of interest – particularly his connection to wealthy Lowy – in the affair.

“It is clear that Olmert did not reveal his connections with Lowy and tried to change the conditions of the sale in [Lowy’s] favor, while ignoring the requests of other groups,” the petition read.

Last summer, Olmert was also let off the hook in the “Cremieux Street affair” – in which the former prime minister was suspected of paying a below market price for an apartment in exchange for using his influence to increase the size of the structure the contractor was allowed to build.

In July 2009, then-attorneygeneral Menahem Mazuz announced that he was closing proceedings against Olmert regarding the real estate deal, as there was insufficient evidence to justify the filing of criminal charges.

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