Neeman submits opinion on Olmert donations

Justice Minister says he answered former PM's questions about accepting corporate donations, paying suppliers, purchasing assets in 1999.

yaakov neeman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yaakov neeman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s defense team submitted on Tuesday to the Jerusalem District Court a 1999 legal opinion written by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman regarding political donations made two weeks before Likud primaries.
Olmert’s defense team assert that this legal opinion, given to Olmert and to attorney Uri Messer when Neeman was a private attorney, proves that donations the former prime minister received from US businessman Moshe Talansky were legal.
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Olmert stands accused of failing to report the donations to the state comptroller.
In a letter to Olmert’s lawyer, attorney Roi Belcher, Neeman wrote that he recalls giving the legal opinion to Olmert in 1999.
The Justice Minister wrote he recalls that Olmert approached him shortly after the Likud primaries were announced that year to request a legal opinion regarding what was permitted for a candidate for the position of Likud chairman in the two weeks following the election announcement in June 1999.
Neeman, who referred to those two weeks before the Likud primaries as the “interim period” in that legal opinion, noted in his letter to Belcher that he could not clarify whether he actually met Olmert during that time or whether the two talked on the phone.
“I do recall that Ehud Olmert told me that attorney Uri Messer would also contact me about the matter,” wrote Neeman. “I talked to Messer on the telephone about the matter at least once. It should also be noted that Attorney Messer is also addressed in the opinion.”
Neeman wrote that Messer probably spoke with attorney Kobi Meir, with whom Neeman’s law office worked at that time and who had assisted Neeman in compiling the legal opinion he gave to Olmert.
“To the best of my knowledge, I talked to Olmert on at least one other occasion, close to the day I published the opinion on June 21, 1999,” Neeman continued.
Neeman wrote that his former secretary had managed to find a copy of the opinion he gave Olmert, and noted that the document had two notes attached to it, together with a fax cover sheet that had been sent to the USA.
One of those notes had been written by attorney Kobi Meir, and stated “Ehud Olmert agreed with Yaakov last night that Yaakov will sign the opinion from New York.”
“When I read that note I remembered I had spoken to Mr. Olmert and we had agreed I would sign the opinion while I was abroad,” Neeman wrote.
“The other note is in my own handwriting and I asked Kobi Meir to file a copy of the opinion.”
He said the legal questions he answered in the opinion centered on whether in that interim period a candidate could accept donations from a corporation; whether he could pay suppliers who would give services during elections; and whether he could purchase fixed assets to be used in the elections.
The Justice Minister also noted that he had found a copy of an article that appeared on the cover of Ma’ariv’s weekend magazine on June 25, 1999, that had mentioned the legal opinion.
Neeman also asked Belcher to pass a copy of the correspondence to State Prosecutor Uri Korb in order to ascertain whether the Justice Minister will need to testify.
“Of course, if I am asked I will come to the court and testify,” wrote Neeman.
Olmert’s media adviser, Amir Dan, said in response to the submission of Neeman’s opinion that “after the prosecution refused the submission of the opinion yesterday, this morning they backtracked because they understood that it’s better if the opinion is submitted than the Justice Minister appears in court himself and gives testimony that would pull the ground out from under the prosecution’s claims.”
The prosecution, however, noted that Neeman’s opinion related only to monies received from corporations and not from private donors.
In another dramatic development on Tuesday, Olmert’s former aide Shula Zaken announced her decision not to testify in court. Zaken told reporters that the prosecution was “playing a distorted game.”
Zaken was indicted and is being tried alongside the former prime minister for a string of corruption charges.