PM Lawyers: Talansky lied about unrepaid loans

US financier claims he once gave Yitzhak Rabin $100,000.

talansky court 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
talansky court 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The final day of the first round of Morris Talansky's cross-examination by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyers ended on a bizarre note Tuesday when the attorneys screened a segment of a police interrogation in which Talansky claimed he had given $100,000 to then-MK Yitzhak Rabin many years earlier, before he was prime minister. The film shows Talansky swearing on the lives of his children that the story was true. According to the rather incoherent story Talansky told his interrogators, a well-known American Zionist activist, Leon Charney, told Talansky he had to give Rabin money for coming to the US to speak on behalf of one of his organizations. Talansky added that he was asked to give Rabin $100,000 plus expenses. He also said he and Rabin played a game of tennis against another pair for the money and that he and Rabin won. After the segment was screened, Talansky said the money had gone to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Attorney Nevot Tel-Tzur asked Talansky whether he stood by his story or wanted to apologize to the Rabin family for the allegation. "I humbly apologize to the family for what I said," Talansky replied. State Attorney Moshe Lador objected to the screening, saying that Tel-Tzur was playing to public opinion by using the media attending the hearing. He said it was no coincidence that the five-day hearing was closing with this affair and asked the court to issue a gag order banning television channels and Internet sites from showing the video. The court, headed by Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad, decided to allow the footage to be aired on condition that the media also broadcast Talansky's words in court. When Tel-Tzur first asked Talansky about his statement about Rabin, he replied, "Rabin is not here. I'd rather not comment." Tel-Tzur charged that in the same way he had told lies about Rabin, he had also told lies about Olmert. Earlier in the session, the head of the Olmert legal team, Eli Zohar, tried to convince the court that Talansky had lied about the alleged loans he said he had given the prime minister. Talansky claimed he had loaned Olmert money on three occasions: $25,000 for a family trip to Italy and Greece; $4,717.49 to cover Olmert's debt at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington; and $15,000 for expenses that Olmert allegedly incurred during a trip to the US for his grandson's brit. In earlier questioning, Zohar had shown there was no record of a withdrawal of $25,000 by Talansky around the time of Olmert's vacation, and therefore no indication he had given him such a loan. On Tuesday, Zohar focused on the Ritz Carlton payment and the $15,000 cash loan. Zohar said that according to the records kept by Olmert's bureau chief, Shula Zaken, Talansky "owed" Olmert $6,500 for expense money he had collected but not yet handed over. When the police asked Talansky why he had paid the hotel bill instead of demanding the money from Olmert, Talansky told them he owed Olmert money. "I looked into this and found that you did indeed owe Olmert $6,500," Zohar continued, arguing that the money for the Ritz Carlton bill was in lieu of the debt. However, Zohar offered no proof that Olmert had ever told Talansky that the Ritz Carlton bill would be considered payment of the debt or that Talansky had agreed to such an arrangement. The second loan was more complex. During one of his interrogations by police about $15,000 that Talansky gave Olmert on November 23, 2005, he was asked whether the money he gave Olmert was a loan. Talansky said "no," and then, a few seconds later, backtracked and said it might have been a loan. During another interrogation, he told police he had not given Olmert any money during Olmert's trip to New York between November 22 and November 26 to attend his grandson's brit. But his testimony was complicated. He said he had been informed by Zaken that Olmert would be in New York and that he wanted to see Talansky. On most occasions when Zaken called, it meant that Olmert wanted money. The police interrogators showed Talansky a printout of the phone calls he had received during the time of Olmert's visit. The printout indicated that Olmert had called him three times on the morning of November 23. "He never called me three times," Talansky told the court. "If he did, there must have been something urgent, and that was what was urgent - $15,000." On the other hand, Talansky concluded that he had not seen Olmert that day because it was 9:25 a.m. when they finally got to talk to each other on the phone, and Olmert had an important meeting at 10 a.m. Still, Talansky insisted that despite what he had told police, he remembered clearly that he had visited Olmert at this hotel, that Olmert had asked for $15,000 to cover expenses and that he had walked to his bank a few blocks away, withdrawn the money and given it to Olmert. "I met him," Talansky said emphatically. "I withdrew $15,000 and I gave it to Olmert." Zohar said he didn't believe him. "You did legitimate things," he told Talansky. "You contributed to his campaigns, you gave him expense money. But all that color about giving him loans was not true. You cannot prove it." In summing up the accomplishments of Olmert's team of lawyers, Zohar said they had proved that the state could not base an indictment on Talansky's testimony and that his claims that he had given Olmert loans and not been repaid or that Olmert had ordered Talansky to transfer all money in cash were unfounded. "I feel deep sorrow about the situation we have gotten ourselves into in Israel," Tel-Tzur said. "I believe that had the public and state prosecution seen two months ago the picture that has been revealed during this cross-examination, there would have been no pre-trial testimony, no one would have dreamed of demanding that the prime minister step down, the primary in Kadima would not have been advanced and the entire public storm that erupted would not have happened at all. I am sorry that we had to sit for five days in order to reveal the 'true' testimony upon which all this public storm has been based. "Therefore, I am deeply concerned about a situation in which political and media developments precede the legal process, without the facts being known, on the basis of headlines and slogans, and because of the actions of interested parties, and bring about a political revolution without any justification," Tel-Tzur said.