Prosecution says Olmert's conduct 'blacker than black'

Arguments in state's appeal of former PM's acquittals in J'lem corruption trial conclude; Defense: actions not pretty, but not criminal.

Ehoud Olmert 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ehoud Olmert 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The proceedings before the Supreme Court on the state’s appeal against former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s acquittals in the Jerusalem corruption trial concluded Thursday, the second day of arguments, with the state calling Olmert’s conduct “blacker than black” and the defense saying his conduct was “not pretty, but not criminal.”
Questions from the court indicated that Olmert’s fate remained undecided, while predictions were that a final decision would be handed down within a few months.
The second day of arguments focused more on finer points relating to the Jerusalem District Court’s decision, which the justices had asked about on the first day of arguments on Tuesday.
The state said there were decisive contradictions between the story Olmert’s lawyers presented at the Supreme Court and his testimony before the lower court.
In his testimony to the lower court, Olmert said he thought that hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from Moshe Talansky were kept in a bank account, whereas on Tuesday the state explained, Olmert’s lawyers said that he decided to keep the funds in the secret safe of his confidante Uri Messer, because his political supporters had requested anonymity.
The state said there was no explanation other than fraud for the contradiction in Olmert’s stories.
It argued that the Supreme Court should reverse the lower court’s decision for misusing the beyond reasonable doubt standard on this issue and entertaining wildly unlikely explanations, where the idea of a secret safe was highly suspect and where Olmert gave completely contradictory explanations.
Next, the state claimed that those aspects of Moshe Talansky’s testimony, which hurt their case, were due to his defending his own name rather than being concerned about the truth.
The state said the lower court had come to the same conclusion and that, as a result, Talansky’s testimony, should be ignored by the Supreme Court.
The state went on to say that even if Talansky was an ideological supporter of Olmert, that he clearly gave Olmert money because the former prime minister was in a position of power, where he could help advance Talansky’s own business opportunities, which created an inherent conflict of interest.
The state compared Olmert’s case to a past controversy involving President Shimon Peres when he received funds from private persons. “Peres was in a gray area,” the state said. “Olmert was blacker than black.”
The court accused the state of ignoring the example presented by the defense of $23,000 that Talansky gave, Messer temporarily held onto and that eventually was used for Olmert’s political purposes (which would be legal).
The state had more than one argument in response. First, it claimed that the defense had not decisively proved its claim that the $23,000 was used for political purposes with documentary evidence.
Second, the state said that regardless of what the money was used for, it did not change the fact that the rest of the hundreds of thousands of dollars were used illegally, and not for political purposes. Particularly since Messer generally opened bank accounts for holding onto political funds and since Messer, in his testimony, failed to identify these funds as political.
Finally, the state said that in light of the funds not being reported and instead being kept in a secret safe, and being cash from a private person to a public servant, that providing one example was insufficient and the defense should be forced to carry an overall burden of proof that all of the cash was for political purposes.
The court then pressed the defense about how they could claim that all of the money was political and that no law had been broken under such suspicious circumstances. The defense responded that Olmert’s actions were “not pretty, but not criminal.”
The comments from the defense were much shorter, and asked by The Jerusalem Post why, a source close to Olmert said that the judges had not posed many difficult questions for them, that they had made their arguments already and implied a certain level of confidence about the outcome of the case and the defense’s stronger position being able to rely on the District Court’s decision.