Olmert at court.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The National Fraud Unit has expanded its investigation of former prime minister Ehud Olmert to the US as part of an effort to check whether he transferred bribe money he allegedly received from businessmen to his brother, Middle East expert Yossi Olmert, who left Israel in 2004 due to heavy debts, The Jerusalem Post can confirm.
On Sunday, police said Olmert received NIS 1 million in bribes from businessmen seeking approval for an expanded Holyland real estate development in Jerusalem when he was mayor and minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. Police believe the money was transferred via his aide, Shula Zaken.
Prosecutors are seeking to get US authorities to check whether money was transferred into Yossi Olmert’s US bank account, and the National Fraud Unit has dispatched an investigator to the US as part of the investigation.
Yossi Olmert fell into debt to loan sharks on the gray market (private companies that offer loans to borrowers who are not in a financial position to receive bank loans) after a series of failed attempts to become elected as a Likud MK. He moved to the US to escape his creditors.
A spokesman for Ehud Olmert could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Yoav Yitzhak, the investigative journalist who first broke news of the
Holyland corruption investigation in 2008, said prosecutors were also
checking whether an illicit cash trail ran through China.
Yitzhak told the Post it was too soon to say why bribe money could have passed through China.
Police, acting on the basis of tips from a state’s witness, suspect
that businessmen backing Holyland paid tens of millions of shekels in
bribes to public officials to ensure that the construction plan
received approval, and say the affair is linked to several additional
bribery affairs involving real estate developers and elected officials.