The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment on Thursday against
Emanuel Baumwolspiner, founder and owner of the Rishon Tours travel agency,
charging him with falsifying travel invoices to double-bill nonprofit
organizations for prime minister Ehud Olmert’s foreign
Baumwolspiner is also charged with transferring funds from the
accounts of other Rishon Tours customers, without their knowledge or consent, to
cover a large deficit in the prime minister’s account.
Olmert is standing
trial in the Jerusalem District Court on a string of corruption charges, all of
which he denies, including that he allegedly double-billed nonprofit
organizations for overseas flights, and used the extra money to pay for private
trips for his family and himself via the Rishon Tours travel agency. That trial
is now reaching its final stages.
Filed in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s
Court, the indictment covers the period from 2002 to 2006, and charges that
Baumwolspiner knowingly ordered his employees to create false documentation
regarding Olmert’s foreign trips, as requested by Olmert’s bureau.
false documentation included invoices and receipts, including forged information
for the various nonprofit bodies paying for the trips, and were issued at the
request of Olmert’s office, the indictment charges.
alleges that Rishon Tours issued duplicate invoices for the same flights, and
sent them to two or more nonprofit organizations to pay. The tour company also
allegedly quoted fictitious air ticket prices that did not tally with the prices
of the air ticket as charged by the airlines.
Sometimes, the indictment
charges, Rishon Tours even cited travel itineraries that did not match the route
that Olmert flew, to send out fictitious invoices.
Rishon Tours allegedly
transferred the fictitious invoices and receipts to Olmert’s office, which is
alleged to have used them to collect funding from various organizations for
The indictment alleges that Olmert, his bureau chief
Shula Zaken and foreign relations coordinator Rachel Rizby Raz presented the
fake invoices to various bodies, including nonprofit organizations and the
state, with requests to pay for Olmert’s travel expenses, allegedly concealing
that other bodies were also covering the costs of the same trip.
indictment lists several examples of the alleged falsification of travel
expenses, including a trip Olmert took to Brussels and New York in April 2002.
Olmert’s real route was Tel Aviv-Brussels- Frankfurt-New York-Tel Aviv,
according to the indictment, but Rishon Tours allegedly issued travel receipts
and invoices for a fake route, mainly via Rishon Tours employee Hadar Salzman-
The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces charity allegedly paid
an invoice for a travel ticket from Tel Aviv- Brussels-Frankfurt-Tel Aviv, for
$6,689, whereas the World Jewish Congress paid an invoice for a route from
Brussels-Frankfurt-New York- Tel Aviv, for $2,804. The actual cost of Olmert’s
flight ticket was allegedly $8,240, leaving a surplus of $1,253, which was added
to Olmert’s Rishon Tours account, according to the indictment.
around $90,000 was accumulated using this method. This money, the indictment
charges, was then used by Olmert, to pay for private trips for himself and his
family, including flight upgrades to first class.
alleged to have met every few months with Zaken, and later on also with Rizby
The indictment charges that at these meetings, which were held in
Zaken’s office, Zaken, Baumwolspiner and Rizby Raz would examine the status of
Olmert’s account at Rishon Tours.
Rizby Raz allegedly brought records she
had prepared of Olmert’s travels including his real itineraries, payments
collected from various organizations and details of private trips taken by the
former prime minister and his family.
According to the indictment, the
offset between the surplus monies from Olmert’s official trips and the debit
balance of his private trips was allegedly initially covered up using debit
balances in various private travel accounts.
In August 2004, Rishon
Tours’ bookkeeping office allegedly opened an account card in the name of
“Olmert Private” that was used to collect the excess public trip money and use
it to cover private trips and upgrades.
The indictment charges that
Olmert and his family flew abroad on dozens of private trips during 2002 to
2006, at a total cost of $100,000 – covered by surplus funds via Rishon
From the time Olmert became acting prime minister in January 2006,
until he left office in March 2009, he refrained from going on trips abroad
funded by private organizations, and the “Olmert Private” account at Rishon
Tours had an outstanding balance of $11,000, all according to the
However, from then until October 2007, Olmert’s son Ariel
allegedly traveled abroad several times and continued to charge the “Olmert
Private” account, to the sum of $2,741.
In May 2007, Baumwolspiner is
alleged to have met Olmert, who transferred five checks totaling NIS 12,460 to
Rishon Tours, covering about a quarter of the outstanding balance, the
According to the indictment, the remainder of the
outstanding sum was covered by Rishon Tours in December 2007, when Baumwolspiner
is alleged to have ordered his staff to transfer monies from other customers’
accounts, without their knowledge or consent.
Ruth Litvak and Motti Lazar, said on Thursday that Baumwolspiner was a “pawn of
powerful individuals,” adding that they were convinced he would be acquitted of
“Mr. Baumwolspiner’s file has been lying in the state
attorney’s office for more than three years. They chose not to make a decision
on it even though indictments were filed against all the other individuals
connected to this affair,” Litvak said. “Now, as Ehud Olmert’s trial is reaching
an end, the state attorney’s office decides to bring [Baumwolspiner] to
In his own trial in the Jerusalem District Court, Olmert has
denied doublebilling organizations for trips abroad. Under crossexamination in
July, the former prime minister said he had thought the balance of his Rishon
Tours account would have been covered by extensive air miles accumulated during
numerous first-class flights overseas.
In testimony to the court in June,
Olmert 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.