2 US businessmen grilled in PM case

Adelson, Abrams allegedly involved in illicit funding affair; police seize documents from gov't ministry.

Olmert cabinet 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert cabinet 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Two American-Jewish billionaire businessmen, Sheldon Adelson and Daniel Abrams, have been questioned by police concerning the illicit funding investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Chanel Two reported Tuesday that Olmert is suspected of asking Adelson to help Talansky market his hotel mini-bar restocking service. 75-year-old Adelson, who owns the world's biggest casino operator, US casino company Las Vegas Sands Corp, reportedly told police he was having difficulty remembering what had happened. Daniel Abrams is suspected of transferring money from New York financier Morris Talansky to Olmert. Abrams, a broadcast executive and former news correspondent, is also allegedly involved in two other scandals involving the prime minister - the Bank Leumi affair and the case of Olmert's Jerusalem home purchase. Meanwhile, detectives from the National Fraud Unit entered the offices of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon and confiscated documents "linked to the investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Rosenfeld added that the search "should not be seen as a raid." Olmert served as Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor from 2003 to 2006. Police say Olmert is suspected of illegally receiving funds from Talansky from the 1990s up until 2005, and appear to be tracing Olmert's paper (or computer file) trail through his former offices. One unconfirmed report claims the latest police search will attempt to verify whether Olmert attempted to help Talansky by promoting a company set up by the financier to market the mini-bar company which caters to hotels. The last time police searched the offices of the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry was in November 2007, during a previous police investigation launched in response to suspicions that Olmert illegally appointed cronies and granted benefits to entrepreneurs seeking various tenders. On Monday, the National Fraud Unit raided the Jerusalem Municipality, searching for documents linked to Olmert during his two terms as mayor of the capital, between 1993 and 2003. Some reports have speculated that Olmert is suspected of helping Talansky's associates obtain building permits in Jerusalem, and claim that police focused Monday's search on the Planning and Construction department of Jerusalem's municipality. Such reports suggest that the National Fraud Unit could be examining suspicions of bribery, rather than the current allegations of illegal receipt of funds officially being cited by police. "The search is linked to the time that Olmert worked in the municipality, and to suspicions of receiving the funds," Rosenfeld had confirmed on Monday. A City Hall representative said he saw two police officers enter the building, but could not confirm seeing them leave with any documents or computers. Meanwhile, Talansky was interrogated again at the National Fraud Unit's Bat Yam headquarters on Monday evening. Talansky emerged from the backdoor of the police station after a long questioning session, saying "here we go" as he encountered several photographers and journalists. He refused to comment on the investigation, occasionally flashing a smile as he entered a car, and was driven away from the police station. In an interview aired on Sunday night on Channel 10, he denied bribing the prime minister, saying the hundreds of thousands of dollars he provided Olmert were meant as campaign contribution funds. "I never thought in any way that the money that I gave him - it was for the purpose of his becoming mayor or electioneering - was in any way illegal or wrong. He was not the only one who came to America to ask for money for the election campaign, and so I thought it was legal," Talansky said. Earlier on Monday, the former chief investigator into corruption at the State Comptroller's office, Cmdr. (ret.) Yaakov Borovsky, said he thought the ongoing criminal investigation into Olmert will conclude with an indictment. Olmert committed himself to resigning should he be served with an indictment during a televised address to the nation last week. Borovsky dismissed the idea that the investigation into Olmert was based only on illegal receipt of money, saying the the focus of National Fraud Unit investigators was on the far more serious charge of bribery. He added that between 2003 and 2005, when police suspect that Olmert continued to receive money from Talansky, no elections were held, and suggested that the funds could not be solely meant to finance elections campaigns.