PM to be grilled over Bank Leumi sale

Tuesday's questioning under warning by Nat'l fraud squad expected to be at Olmert's J'lem residence.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, AP
October 7, 2007 08:21
1 minute read.
bank leumi 298 88 aj

bank leumi 298 88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be questioned under caution on Tuesday regarding the 2005 sale by the government of its shares in Bank Leumi, police announced on Sunday. "The prime minister will be questioned at 9:00 a.m. this Tuesday at his residence by three police investigators who will carry out the questioning," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Olmert is suspected of trying to tilt a public tender for ownership of core control of Bank Leumi on behalf of a friend, Australian businessman Frank Lowy, while serving as finance minister. Following the police announcement, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that the sale of Bank Leumi shares had been "one of the most successful privatization moves in Israel that led to a record sale of state-owned property." Olmert has kept Tuesday and Thursday free for giving his testimony to police, his office said. "The prime minister is certain that at the conclusion of the investigation it will be revealed that all the decisions he took in the privatization process were professional... and he acted properly," it added. Lowy, who is not a suspect, was questioned by police in Sydney earlier this year. He ultimately never purchased any shares from the bank. Australia's second richest man, who is worth an estimated $5 billion, Lowy has categorically rejected any suggestion that he or anyone acting on his behalf behaved improperly. He said he was confident the inquiry would bear that out. The case is being investigated by the Israel Police's National Fraud Investigation Unit; the same team is currently investigating the prime minister's allegedly unlawful home purchase. Olmert allegedly received favorable terms for the purchase of his house on Jerusalem's Cremieux Street in 2004 in return for helping the contractor who sold it to him. On September 24, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation against Olmert in connection with the 2004 purchase. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has also accused Olmert of using his influence to steer a government grant to a colleague in 2001, when he was trade and industry minister. The prime minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing in any of the affairs in which he is being investigated.


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