'Decision on PM indictment very soon'

Lador says evidence to be handed to Mazuz shortly; Talansky loses more ground to Olmert's lawyers.

Talansky hold it 224.8 (photo credit: AP )
Talansky hold it 224.8
(photo credit: AP )
A decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be made "very soon," State Attorney Moshe Lador said Monday. Lador said that the body of evidence gathered against the prime minister would soon be handed to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, who would then be tasked with deciding whether to take Olmert to court. Meanwhile, prosecution witness Morris Talansky on Monday told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyer, Nevot Tel-Tzur, that he could not remember transferring more than $400,000 within a few months from a company that he owned. It was one of many lapses of memory that Talansky claimed to suffer during his fourth day of cross-examination on allegations that he had given Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for campaign contributions, upgrades on flights and hotel rooms and, possibly, for the prime minister's personal use. The five-day cross-examination is due to end on Tuesday. However, on Monday, the court - headed by Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad - agreed to a request by Olmert's lawyers to hold two more days of cross-examination on August 31 and September 1. On Tuesday, Olmert's lawyers are due to complete the first stage of their cross-examination, while attorney Micha Fetman, representing Olmert's close aide, Shula Zaken, will have his first shot at questioning Talansky. During Monday's hearing, Tel-Tzur embarrassed Talansky time and again. He questioned the prosecution witness about transfers of $210,000 and £25,000 from a company he owned, Israel Development Ltd., to the account of Uri Messer, Olmert's close friend and head of his Jerusalem mayoral campaign in 1998. When police interrogators asked him about these transfers, Talansky appeared shocked and said he knew nothing about them. He added that the company itself had eventually gone bankrupt and had never operated in Israel, and that he doubted there was any money in its account. One of the questions Tel-Tzur raised was whether it was possible for Messer to have transferred the money on his own, without Talansky's authorization. "Did you give Messer power of attorney?" asked Tel-Tzur. Talansky: I don't remember Tel-Tzur [produces general power of attorney signed by Talansky]: This is a general power of attorney to carry out many actions, including opening bank accounts and signing contracts. Do you remember giving Messer such a power of attorney? Talansky: No, I don't remember. In fact, Tel-Tzur showed that Talansky had made about five different transfers from the account of Israel Development Ltd within the space of about four months. The transfers included $100,000, $60,0000, $50,000 and £25,000 to Messer; transfers of $25,000, $85,000 and $170,000 to his private account at City Bank in New York; and $30,000 to another company he owned. Tel-Tzur: We see here transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars - to Messer, to your private account and to a business in which you own shares. Do you mean to tell me that you remember nothing of this? Talansky: Yes. [i.e., I remember nothing of this.] After all, how many transfer operations were there altogether. Four, five? In the second part of the operation, Tel-Tzur asked Talansky about conflicts in the versions that Messer and Talansky gave police during their investigations. For example, Talansky told police he had dropped in to visit Messer one week after arriving in Israel on April 9 of this year, allegedly to express sympathy with Messer after reading about the police investigation and to suggest that the attorney represent him in the purchase of a home for his granddaughter. Tel-Tzur told Talansky that Messer had denied this account, saying Talansky had come to his office to see if they could coordinate their accounts of the gifts to Olmert. Messer, according to Tel-Tzur, also told police that Talansky had said to him that Israeli officials had come to New York to question him on the Olmert affair. Talansky told Tel-Tzur he could not recollect having said anything like that to Messer and denied that he had been interrogated in New York. Regarding another issue, Talansky told Tel-Tzur he had not given permission for Messer and Olmert to use the money he had transferred to them from Israel Development Ltd. to repay an overdraft compiled by Olmert's party, Jerusalem United, in the 1998 municipal election. According to Talansky, Messer had drafted a letter addressed to Olmert to be signed by Talansky, asking Olmert to reimburse him for the money he had given him as security for the party and which had been seized by the bank in lieu of the party's debts. Talansky said Messer had assured him that he would not lose any money by signing the letter. Messer, however, said the letter had made it clear that Talansky had already lost the money to the bank. In fact, the bank had seized the money two weeks before Messer asked Talansky to sign the letter.