Olmert speaks 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Now that the strike of the state prosecutors has ended, at least temporarily, the trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is set to resume in Jerusalem District Court after a forced recess of more than six weeks.
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During the last few sessions, Olmert’s attorney, Navit Negev, was cross-examining Rachel Risby- Raz, the state’s key witness in the so-called Rishontours Affair. The case is examining charges that Olmert doubled-billed voluntary and other public organizations, as well as the state, and used the extra money to finance private trips for himself and his family.
Risby-Raz served as Olmert’s foreign liaison during part of his term as mayor of Jerusalem and his years as industry, trade and labor minister and as communications minister. In that capacity, she was in charge of arranging his speaking appearances abroad, setting up his itinerary for these trips, and ensuring that the organizations on whose behalf he spoke paid the Rishontours Travel Agency, which Olmert patronized.
For her alleged role in the Rishontours Affair, Risby- Raz has been charged with obtaining something by deceit in aggravated circumstances, making false entries in the documents of a corporate body, fraud and breach of faith, and is being tried separately in the Jerusalem District Court.
However, in the trial of Olmert and his close aide Shula Zaken, she is appearing as a witness for the prosecution.
During questioning by state prosecutor Uri Korb, Risby-Raz confirmed that Olmert had personally approved the full billing of two different organizations that had invited him to speak at separate fundraising events in New York.
Each of the organizations, the Israel Policy Forum and the Friends of the IDF, were charged the full price of a first-class round-trip ticket as well as other costs.
Risby-Raz is due to return to the witness box on Monday to resume her crossexamination by Negev, sources in the state prosecution told The Jerusalem Post.
However, the following day, the state will summon witnesses in the Investment Center Affair, in which Olmert is charged with favoring clients of his close friend Uri Messer who were seeking government grants for investments in Israel.
The Olmert trial originally began with the Talansky Affair, in which the former prime minister is accused of accepting large sums of money from US businessman Moshe Talansky without reporting the income.
Messer, who allegedly held a large amount of this money in his private safe on Olmert’s behalf, was due to testify against him.
However, the state decided to postpone Messer’s testimony after he became a suspect in a new scandal in which Olmert was also involved – the Holyland building project. Recently, however, the state attorney’s office closed the file against Messer, the last and most important witness in the affair, and the state is free to call upon him to testify at any time.