Analysis: Talansky's main allegation collapses

Each day makes him look less and less like a credible witness.

Talansky court 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Talansky court 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In taking over the cross-examination from Eli Zohar on Monday, attorney Nevot Tel-Tzur defused the most serious allegation raised by prosecution witness Morris Talansky against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his close friend, Uri Messer. In his testimony to the court during direct examination on May 27, Talansky was asked about several bank transfers amounting to $210,000 and £25,000 from Israel Development Ltd., a US-based company that he owned, to Messer's Bank Leumi account in Jerusalem. He had told the court he knew nothing about them. When first asked about a $100,000 transfer on October 21, 1999, Talansky told the court he had no idea who had given the order to transfer the money. "I asked that the matter be investigated and that we find the original signed document and whoever signed it because I have certain suspicions about this affair," Talansky told State Attorney Moshe Lador on May 27. "I know what they are in my mind but I have no basis in fact. Why I would give Uriel Messer $100,000 that year I have no idea." Talansky pulled no punches regarding who he thought had ordered the transfer. It was Messer, he told police during his interrogations. But Talansky was wrong. It wasn't Messer, but him. On Monday Tel-Tzur presented to the court the instructions for the bank signed by Talansky, ordering Kalman Walker, a branch director at Israel General Bank, to make separate transfers of $100,000, $60,000 and $50,000 to Messer's bank account. He also submitted a memo to the court ordering a clerk to transfer £25,000, as per Talansky's orders. Talansky had no choice but to confirm that the signature on the orders was his own. Thus ended ignominiously the most serious charge against Messer and, presumably, Olmert, originating in the May 27 examination. Once again, Talansky did not look good at the end of Monday's long testimony. In fact, each day makes him look less and less like a credible witness. It could be that his memory is abysmal. It could also mean worse things. Tel-Tzur accused Talansky of lying to the court. The day's events also indicated that the state's original demand that Talansky undergo pre-trial testimony may have done it far more harm than good. It certainly did not look that way in the heady days after Talansky's direct examination on May 27. After he gave that testimony, half the country was clamoring for Olmert's head. Two months later, Talansky is in disgrace. Had the prosecution had more time to collect evidence before putting Talansky on the witness stand, it might have had the time to discover and study key information like the signed instructions to the Israel General Bank. But it first came across the documents either shortly before or some time after the May 27 hearing. Had the prosecutors had them in hand, they would not have questioned Talansky about the matter and saved him and them from embarrassment.