Messer: Talansky money was held in trust

One-time attorney of Ehud Olmert testifies in Talansky affair; says he received envelopes from Shula Zaken, denies wrongdoing.

By RON FRIEDMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 22, 2011 14:06
2 minute read.
Ori Messer

ori messer low quality 311. (photo credit: Channel 10 )

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s one-time attorney and close friend Uri Messer testified in the Talansky affair trial at the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday, saying he had handled envelopes of money for Olmert in the past.

In the Talansky case, the prosecution lawyers claim that Messer served as a private banker for Olmert, who allegedly received cash contributions from New York businessman Morris Talansky – and perhaps from others – and stashed them in his safe without declaring them to the tax authorities.

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Olmert has claimed throughout the trial that the money was received in accordance with the law, to fund election campaigns in which he participated as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a minister in the Likud and Kadima parties.

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Messer said that Olmert’s bureau chief Shula Zaken would give him envelopes a few times a year.

“You call it a secret stash, I call it saving money in trust,” he said. He added that at times the sums he had handled amounted to between NIS 100,000 and NIS 300,000.

Messer testified that Zaken would call him from time to time to set up a meeting and would hand the money to him either in Olmert’s office or home, or in Messer’s own office. He said that any time a deposit or withdrawal was made, Zaken would make a note of it in his presence.

In 2004, he said, he had transferred the money from his office safe to the bank, and in 2006 handed it all back to Olmert.

Messer added that he had given the money back because he didn’t want to be involved in the media storm surrounding the affair, not because he believed he was doing something wrong.

He told the court that the envelopes, for the most part, contained thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.

“At first I didn’t know the source of the envelopes, but when I met Talansky, I put two and two together,” Messer said.

He added that he and Olmert had talked about the money, but not about amounts. He said that he had never charged fees for his actions and had never been asked by the bank to disclose the existence of the funds, nor was he required to by law.

“I did it because Olmert was a client and a friend of mine. This is neither the first nor the last deed I did without compensation,” he said.

Following the hearing, Olmert’s communications adviser Amir Dan said that the testimony proved there was no wrongdoing.

“Today it was proven without a doubt that there was no secret cashbox as has been claimed, but legal funds held in trust as is the custom with any lawyer,” he said.


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