Joe Elmaleh questioned over Olmert loan

Joe Elmaleh, an American Jewish mogul who lent Prime Minister Ehud Olmert $75,000 in 1993, was questioned by National Fraud Unit detectives, police have confirmed. "We took a testimony from Elmaleh," a police spokesman said. For the time being, police have not launched a full-blown investigation into the loan, which Olmert has yet to repay. "This still falls under the Talansky and Olmertours investigations," the spokesman added. Among the questions Elmaleh likely faced was why he had provided Olmert with the loan in the first place, a police source said. The loan was granted to Olmert shortly before he was elected mayor of Jerusalem. He declared it in a declaration of assets submitted to the state comptroller in 2003, and in 2004, Olmert signed a statement on the orders of then-comptroller Eliezer Goldberg in which he promised to repay Elmaleh by the beginning of 2009. A transcript of an interrogation of Olmert on May 23, published in Yediot Aharonot, shows that detectives found time to question Olmert over the loan between questions about funds received from New York businessman Morris Talansky. "You haven't returned the loan?" asked Ch.-Supt. Iris Barak during the interrogation. "No, I have an arrangement with the state comptroller over the return date," Olmert replied. Barak said, "No, it says there that if you do not begin repayments by the start of 2009, then you must return the entire sum. This is a loan given in 1993 and we are not in - " At this point Olmert interjected, "Yes, but... it [the loan] was reported by me throughout all the years in my declarations of assets." "It has not yet been returned," Barak said. After mentioning a second loan from US businessman Abraham Wolfson - who has since died - worth $36,000, which Olmert repaid in 2004, Barak added, "We are telling you that your ability to owe such high sums for so many years, and the lenders' consent to you being in debt for so much money and for so much time, comes from the public positions you filled. What is your response to that?" Olmert replied that Wolfson had been his client during his law-practicing days, and added that he had helped Wolfson through times of personal difficulty. Olmert served as a board member on one of Elmaleh's oil companies before he accepted the loan in 1993.