Analysis: Talansky's testimony means trouble for Olmert

One of the most damning accounts was the claim that Olmert insisted on receiving donations in cash.

Olmert nailbiting 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Olmert nailbiting 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Morris Talansky's lengthy and emotional testimony on Tuesday hurt Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. One of the most damning accounts to have emerged was the claim that Olmert insisted on receiving Talansky's donations in cash, rather than through checks. Once a check is cashed by its recipient, the funds automatically show up on the banking system's radar, as well as that of the authorities. But undeclared envelopes stuffed with cash are a way to transfer the funds under the nose of authorities. If this claim is true, then Olmert was keen to avoid formally acknowledging the money's existence. Talansky went on to undermine some of the explanations Olmert had given to the police. When Talansky said he was asked to pay for Olmert's family holiday to Italy, fancy hotel suites (for personal visits) and upgrades from business class to first class on flights, he blew holes in the prime minister's claim to police that the money in question was meant only for election campaign needs. Olmert's legal team is certainly not happy about the fact that they it was unable to immediately cross-examine the key witness in the case, in its effort to discredit Talansky and question the accuracy of his testimony. That confrontation will have to wait until July. One of the more troubling allegations to emerge from Talansky's testimony is his declaration that Olmert offered to promote his mini-bar business and put him in touch with two major players in the US hotel business. While Talansky said nothing came of the offer, the proposal in itself would be deep in bribery territory. In the meantime, state prosecutors are keeping in check their urge to indict Olmert now, because the police investigators still have a lot of work left to do. Detectives from the National Fraud Unit must now fly to the US to uncover the identities of the "donors behind the donor" - the various people who contributed their money to Talansky, who then cashed their checks and brought the money to Olmert. Those anonymous donors could represent interests, and the police will want to investigate whether Olmert took any actions on their behalf. The prosecution will also want to hear what the police think about the investigation into Olmert's conduct when he was industry, trade and labor minister (2003-2005). During that time, Olmert is suspected of intervening on behalf of his former legal partner Uri Messer, granting government funds to a factory which Messer was hired to represent. Now that police know that Messer was Olmert's "cash machine," dispensing Talansky's money whenever needed, his alleged intervention on behalf of Messer could be seen as bribery.