'We won't give PM's lawyers new info'

State Prosecution: Submitting new material ahead of Talansky cross-examination will disrupt latter case.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 13, 2008 10:02
3 minute read.
'We won't give PM's lawyers new info'

Olmert 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

The State Prosecution told the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday that it was opposed to giving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyers the case material from a new investigation against the prime minister before the cross-examination of Morris Talansky. Days before the cross-examination of the US financier in the illicit funding case against the prime minister, new allegations emerged that Olmert had asked several charities and institutions to pay for the same work-related trips abroad and then used the excess funds to pay for private trips for himself and his family. The State Prosecution said that although the connection between the Talansky affair and the new case was small, handing over the material from the latest investigation would disrupt the Talansky probe. Earlier Sunday morning, Olmert's children came to their father's defense. "We want to unequivocally clarify that our father explicitly told us that the plane tickets given to us were a gift from him paid for out of his own pocket," read a statement released by Olmert's children, Michal, Dana, Shaul and Ariel, on Sunday. Meanwhile, one of Olmert's lawyers, Roi Blecher, said that the new allegations should have been examined privately and that the prime minister needn't have been questioned under warning. Speaking to Israel Radio, Blecher said that comments in the media by officials close to the investigation were "unacceptable, ugly and unfair." He said that there were logical and simple explanations for the allegations, but that he preferred not to elaborate so as not to disrupt the inquiry. The State Attorney's Office has accused Olmert of getting money for the identical trips from several institutions, including Yad Vashem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Friends of the IDF and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. After securing the requested funds, the Rishon Tours travel agency - used by Olmert to manage the funds and flights - sent receipts to each donating party, giving them the impression they had paid for all of Olmert's legitimate costs, when in fact only a small portion of the money was used to cover the travel expenses, police said. The rest of the money was "transferred to a special private account in Olmert's name managed by the travel agency," police claimed. Another of the prime minister's lawyers, Ron Shapira, said Sunday that the family flew on air miles accumulated from flights not funded by the state. He said that while it was possible to argue over this point, "it is exaggerated to turn it into the case of the century." Shapira said that the account the funds were transferred to belonged to Rishon Tours and not to the prime minister. He stressed that the allegations were not new and that three months ago, police received an Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry report outlining all the flights that were paid for and the number of flights for which more money had been donated than was eventually required. Shapira said that publicizing details in the media about the investigation while it was still being conducted was unlawful and that the legal proceedings were being disrupted. Amir Dan, a spokesman for the prime minister, said Olmert had no intention of quitting or suspending himself despite the emergence of the new allegations. Speaking to Israel Radio, Dan accused the state prosecutors and the media of trying to carry out a "targeted assassination" of the prime minister. On Saturday night, speaking to reporters before leaving for Paris, Olmert called the accusations that he stole thousands of dollars from the charities "distorted" and "detestable." Also, sources close to Olmert charged over the weekend that the State Attorney's Office and police were trying to bring down the prime minister because of his government's crusade against the legal establishment. The sources close suggested that if it were not for Olmert's appointment of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and the legal reforms he had initiated, the prime minister would not have been targeted so aggressively. Gil Hoffman and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report


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