YARON Zelekha 88 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha charged on Tuesday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then-finance minister Avraham Hirchson offered plum jobs to him and to Treasury legal adviser Yamima Mazuz, ostensibly to win them over to Olmert's side in the Bank Leumi affair.
Zelekha made the allegation during a lengthy interview on Israel Radio. At the same time, Olmert was being questioned under caution by a police investigative team regarding his actions in the same affair.
The session was relatively short because Olmert was not feeling well and told the investigators he needed to rest. Police will resume the questioning on Thursday morning.
Zelekha was the key witness in the investigation of Olmert regarding suspicions that he intervened in 2005 in the terms of a government tender for sale of the state's controlling interest in Bank Leumi, on behalf of a personal friend, Australian billionaire Frank Lowy.
During the radio interview, Zelekha also charged that the director-general of the Treasury at the time of the Bank Leumi tender, Yossi Bachar, was involved in the alleged attempts to tailor-make the tender to fit Lowy's demands.
Olmert has claimed that he sought to make the terms more attractive not only for Lowy but for all the bidders. As for allegations that he should have declared that he was in a conflict of interests because of his friendship with Lowy, Olmert has argued that he had closer friends, such as attorney Ram Caspi, who were also involved in the tender.
Regarding Mazuz, Zelekha said, "It is no secret that Yamima Mazuz was involved in the tender process from the beginning. Had it not been for her, because of her weakness, had it not been for the fact that she insisted on shutting her eyes throughout the procedure, it is very unlikely that Olmert would have managed to get so close to succeeding in the plot that he had devised."
Zelekha also had harsh words for Yamima Mazuz's brother, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. Zelekha was certain, he said, that Olmert had committed crimes in the Bank Leumi tender, but he filed his complaint with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, even though the state comptroller is not responsible for criminal matters.
"I felt that Mazuz was weak," he explained during the interview. "I felt that was the reason he had been appointed to the job in the first place. In other words, his weakness was his advantage."
Zelekha took another swipe at Mazuz when he was asked whether he would petition the High Court of Justice should the state prosecution decide to close the case against Olmert. "Without a doubt," he replied.
"Since I am familiar with the evidence, I know how serious this affair is. As long as I have the strength, as long as it's up to me, I will not allow a repeat of the Greek island affair [in which Mazuz closed the case against former prime minister Ariel Sharon, whose son Gilad was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for an insignificant amount of work by contractor David Appel. Appel wanted to build a series of resorts on a Greek island and allegedly used Ariel Sharon, who was foreign minister at the time, to advance his interests.]
The investigators assigned to the Bank Leumi case arrived at the Prime Minister's Residence early in the morning and began questioning Olmert under caution at 10:30. The session ended at 3:30 p.m.
The investigating team includes Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon, head of the National Police Fraud Unit, Dep.-Cmdr. Eran Kamin, head of the economic investigations unit, and Ch.-Supt. Anat Glutman.
During the interrogation, Olmert's words were taped and transcribed.
In a related development, Mazuz's assistant, Raz Nazri, said on Tuesday that the attorney-general had rejected proposals by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and others to suspend the investigations against Olmert until the end of his term as prime minister.
Nazri wrote that Mazuz opposed the idea in general and even more so because the police were already conducting formal investigations of two affairs - Bank Leumi and the Cremieux Street apartment purchase. Furthermore, the prosecution was close to deciding whether to order another police investigation into alleged political appointments and cronyism by Olmert in the case of the Small Business Authority, the Investment Center and in connection with allegations included in a Channel 10 investigative report charging that Olmert had had a list of requests for favors made by Likud central committee members and how they had been satisfied.