Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict 370.
(photo credit: Emile Solomon/ Haaretz)
The state attorney decided on Tuesday to close a case against former prime
minister Ehud Olmert and one of his former aides, Oved Yechezkel, for alleged
improper appointments while Olmert held various ministerial
The decision was made by Deputy Attorney-General Yehoshua
Lemberger in conjunction with State Attorney Moshe Lador.
The state gave
a number of reasons for closing the case, but one of the major reasons – and one
of the more unusual ones – was essentially “Olmert overload.”
release said the case would have been delayed indefinitely if it was pursued due
to the number of cases against Olmert and the sheer volume of resources
necessary to pursue them. They include the four corruption cases in which Olmert
was acquitted on most charges in July, and the ongoing Holyland trial, which
began the same month.
Besides the delay the state noted another overload
factor, namely that similar cases had been filed against Olmert and the fact
that he had been convicted of the related crime of breach of trust in the
prosecution’s sole victory in the July verdicts. In other words, additional
cases would cover no new ground or address a crime for which Olmert had not yet
been accused or convicted.
A less unusual factor in the decision to close
the case against Olmert was the reduced chance for a conviction in light of a
negative decision against the state when it prosecuted former cabinet minister
Tzahi Hanegbi on similar charges.
Although the state said it did not
consider the Hanegbi decision a binding precedent, it felt it might provide
legal ammunition to Olmert’s defense.
Notably, the state spared no
criticism of Olmert, saying it was confident it had the requisite evidence to
prove him guilty.
This, too, has legal significance.
sentencing, judges and prosecutors often view previous cases against the
defendant that had been closed due to public interest rather than a lack of
evidence in a strongly negative light.
The investigation against Olmert
in this particular case began on October 14, 2007, following publication of a
report by the State Comptroller criticizing as improper certain appointments
Olmert made while he was a cabinet minister from 2003-2006. Police referred the
case to the prosecution in 2009, giving its opinion that the appointments had
involved fraud and breach of public trust.
Initially, the state concluded
that from 2003 to 2005, while minister of infrastructure and construction,
minister of communications and finance minister, Olmert had exploited these
positions and acted in situations of conflicts of interest to help Likud Central
Committee members, activists and their relatives by giving them jobs or
government business, or in other ways.
The initial conclusion was that he
was seeking to raise his political profile and increase his support, and had not
acted according to mandated considerations in making his decisions.
result, Olmert and Yehezkel were invited to a hearing, providing them an
opportunity to try to convince the state to close the case rather than file an
indictment. The initial hearing was significantly delayed until June and then
July 2011 at Olmert’s request due to the time required for his defense in three
other corruption cases taking place at the time.
The state also dismissed
charges against Yehezkel, finding that they were so completely intertwined with
those against Olmert that it could not maintain a case against him alone.