Ehud Olmert 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert vigorously denied on Tuesday the existence of
a “secret cashbox” he is accused of using between the years 2003 and 2006.
his eighth day of testimony before the Jerusalem District Court, Olmert rejected
the term that the prosecution chose to employ because of the associations that
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“I completely reject the allegation. I never held a secret
cashbox of any kind. It is a baseless claim. The very term is
insufferable – it suggests I conspired to hide something because it was tainted
by corruption. I reject this out of hand,” stressed Olmert.
the indictment, Uri Messer, Olmert’s longtime friend and former partner, kept a
secret cash fund for Olmert which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some of the money came from New York businessman Moshe Talansky and some from
other figures unknown to the state. At one point, the indictment stated, the
fund amounted to $350,000.
“During the time in question, and even before
that, Talansky transferred money to me for campaign financing and the person who
managed the funds was Uri Messer. No secret cashbox, no conspiracy, nothing,”
said the former prime minister.
According to Olmert, the funds were held
by Messer as a lawyer and a trustee in the way Messer thought was best. “In
retrospect I found out that we were talking about a safe, but that has nothing
to do with the accusations. Since the funds were legal the safe was
legal. My objections are about the accusations that I attempted to hide
the existence of the funds because they were illegal,” said Olmert.
asked how he himself termed the money, Olmert said that he called it his
“political funds” and that it was used to finance election campaigns and special
Olmert also objected to the prosecution’s use of the term “large
sums” in the indictment, claiming they described the sums as “huge” in order to
increase the severity of the alleged offense. Referring to earlier testimony,
Olmert said “You heard for yourselves the amounts of money that were raised
routinely. We’re talking about NIS 1.8 million-NIS 1.9m. a year for political
expenditures... The 300,000, give or take, that was in the safe, is not much in
comparison. It is a large amount for me in terms of personal funds, but
minuscule in comparison to the amounts that are regularly used for political
In order to compare the amounts that were kept in Messer’s
safe to the amounts routinely used by other politicians, the defense submitted a
State Comptroller’s Report on the money raised by President Shimon Peres in one
of his labor primary campaigns, indicating he raised roughly NIS
Olmert said that the ease with which the prosecutions uttered
their accusations was insufferable.
“Slander like this is unacceptable,
whether it is addressed to a prime minister or a regular citizen. It is
shameful, said Olmert. “I respect the State Attorney’s Office. I was a public
servant for decades. Nobody who ever worked with me can say I ever showed
disrespect to a public service position, but I ask myself, when did they become
so irresponsible, so uncritical about their behavior. It bothers me as a
Olmert concluded the day’s testimony talking of some of the uses
that the cashbox money was used for. He spoke about a series of political events
and activities that Olmert had undertaken, paying for them out of the funds
“I held an event at the national fairgrounds in December
2003 in which 2,500 people participated. I led the public campaign over the
evacuation of the Gaza strip. All these things cost money.
wouldn’t pay for it because it was broke and others wouldn’t pay for it because
it was so controversial. The money came out of our political funds account,”
As to the source of the funds, Olmert refused to disclose
the donor’s name publicly, agreeing only to write them on a note for the judges
and the prosecution to read, as long as the note was placed under a publication
“The money was donated to me by people from abroad who were familiar
with my activities and shared my beliefs and possibly my expectation for my
political future,” he said.
Olmert will testify again on Thursday.