Olmert arriving at trial 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The cross-examination of former prime minister Ehud Olmert continued on Thursday
in the Jerusalem District Court, as the prosecutor’s questions focused on the
socalled Rishon Tours affair.
Olmert is accused of double- and sometimes
triple-billing charities and a government office for flights booked via the
Rishon Tours travel agency, and using the surplus money to pay for flights and
upgrades for family members.
The prosecution says it has identified 17
such trips that took place during Olmert’s term as prime minister.
travel coordinator, Rachel Rizby-Raz, has also been indicted in connection with
the affair, on charges that include fraud. She is also accused of assisting
Olmert’s former aide, Shula Zaken, in the alleged fraud.
denied any direct involvement in the double- billing, but conceded to the court
last month that that there may have been mistakes made in the payments for his
flights, while rejecting claims that he had knowingly swindled nonprofit
In Thursday’s cross-examination, Jerusalem deputy state
attorney Uri Korb questioned Olmert over why he had asked Rizby-Raz to book
personal travel arrangements through Rishon Tours.
Korb told the court
that Rishon Tours had paid NIS 80,000 for Olmert’s overseas trips, and presented
documents that he said show that in 2005 Rizby-Raz had taken NIS 23,000 from
Rishon Tours to pay for flights for Olmert’s wife, Aliza, including to South
Korb also asked why Olmert had not instructed Risby Raz to pay
Rishon Tours from his personal account.
“Why would your travel office pay
for trips that weren’t connected with it?” Korb asked.
The former prime
minister said that he had thought the balance of his account would have been
covered by extensive air miles accumulated during numerous first-class flights
In testimony to the court in June, Olmert had maintained that
Zaken would inform him whenever he owed Rishon Tours money and that he believed
he had paid for his private trips. He also stated that he believed his family
was eligible to fly using air miles.
In Thursday’s cross-examination,
Korb put to Olmert that he had known that there had been a surplus of thousands
of dollars created by double-billing organizations, and that Zaken had known
Olmert denied this.
He also denied knowledge of a debt
of $17,000 to Rishon Tours that the prosecution says he owed at the end of 2002,
and maintained that he does not recall Zaken telling him about it.
prosecution’s claims are “pure speculation, not connected to any evidence,”