Police announcement on PM probe only a PR ploy, ex-investigator says

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September 4, 2008 23:42
3 minute read.

 
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A recent police statement saying material from three investigations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would be reviewed "to determine whether there was a basis" for an indictment of the premier was little more than a distraction intended to remove recent police controversy from the headlines, a senior former National Fraud Unit investigator told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. On Wednesday evening, police said Head of Investigations Cmdr. Yohanan Danino would meet on Thursday and Sunday with the heads of the police teams investigating Olmert on the Talansky cash-envelopes affair, the Rishon Tours affair, and the Investment Center affair, in which, according to suspicions, Olmert granted large state investment funds to a company which his close associate and former law partner Uri Messer had been hired to represent. After the meetings, Danino would come to a decision on whether to recommend an indictment, the statement said. "This statement is a joke," said Dept.-Cmdr. (ret.) Boaz Gutman. "What is really happening here is that a file is being moved from one room to another. It is being passed to state prosecutor Eli Abarbanel in the Jerusalem district prosecution's office. They're putting the file in a car and driving it to another location. Is this a headline? "Abarbanel and other state prosecutors have been accompanying police throughout these investigations, and have access to the materials," Gutman said. Gutman said police no longer make recommendations on indictments in any meaningful sense. "This doesn't exist in the police. Police do not write recommendations. Even beginner prosecutors know they must review the material themselves and not take seriously the police note that comes attached to the material," Gutman said. Gutman provided a different reason for the police statement, saying, "They have created a headline to distract from current police difficulties, such as the media attack Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Dudi Cohen has come under for sacking [southern district chief Cmdr.] Uri Bar-Lev. They needed something to throw to the newspapers. There is also the lack of progress in the investigation into Rose Pizem to distract from." Gutman said the statement to the press would be laughed at by police investigators in the hallways. "Danino is in touch with his investigation team leaders every day. He receives bi-weekly reports from them which are printed and stamped top secret. They are then re-printed by secretaries at the National Fraud Unit's Bat Yam headquarters, as there are endless mistakes in the first drafts." Danino is also updated on the phone daily by National Fraud Unit head Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon. In regards to the Talansky investigation, "the state prosecution has access to the material. At least 30 to 40 files have been given to them on the cash-filled envelopes, so there is nothing to pass on. The Rishon Tours investigation is a case based on Olmert's signatures; there is very little to review. But the media pressure the police, so these statements come out," Gutman said. Gutman said it would take "about four minutes" for state prosecutors to draw up an indictment sheet against Olmert, but added that a combination of bureaucracy, a slow working pace, and the upcoming holidays would mean that Olmert would be unlikely to be formally served with an indictment before December. "You have to send a letter to Olmert confirming his name, ID number, and address, and notify him that the case has been sent to the prosecution. The letter says Olmert is entitled to seek more details, and that he has 30 days to contact the Jerusalem district prosecutors to appeal an indictment. Olmert will then fax the letter to his lawyers, who will write a letter demanding a hearing with the Jerusalem prosecutors, and claim that they will want to photocopy, scan, and study the case materials. That can take up to a month," Gutman said. Most of those claims would be attempts to play for more time, he added. "In theory, Olmert can be indicted now, but the reality in which we work in means that we could have a draft of the indictment by December. And even then, that would mean that the prosecution worked very fast. "They're not planning to rush - they don't want to be the only ones reading case materials on Rishon Tours while the rest of the country is enjoying the holidays," Gutman said. "It's not because this is Olmert, this is the pace the prosecution works at," he added.

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