'Olmert case will embarrass prosecutors'

Ex-premier's lawyer predict claims will be proven false; legal expert: Olmert may get long jail time.

olmert says fuck 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert says fuck 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
A day after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz filed an indictment against former prime minister Ehud Olmert in three corruption-related affairs, the ex-premier's lawyer, Navot Tel-Tzur, predicted that the case would be "an embarrassment to prosecutors." Speaking to Israel Radio on Monday morning, Tel-Tzur said the defense team was "somewhat relieved" to get a chance to refute the charges in a court of law, an opportunity it would not have been afforded in a hearing before Mazuz, since Olmert's aide, Rachel Raz-Risbi, had already been indicted in the Rishon Tours affair. Tel-Tzur dismissed the fraud charges against the former prime minister, saying that "there are no victims of fraud, nor proofs of fraud." Concerning US financial backer Moshe Talansky, Tel-Tzur noted that in his pre-trial testimony, "he was nearly declared a hostile witness." Criminal law expert Professor Emanuel Gross, however, told the station that while the indictment is clearly unusually harsh, "both in scope and in severity," the prosecution would not have taken the former premier to court had they not been convinced they had a firmly based case. "The prosecution has 'done its homework.' Otherwise it wouldn't have taken Olmert to court," Gross said. The professor also predicted that if Olmert is convicted "of the incredibly corrupt crimes with which he has been charged, I don't see how the court can avoid sentencing him to a long prison term." Olmert's close aide for several decades, Shula Zaken, was also cited in the indictment, which covers four separate investigations - the so-called Rishon Tours affair; Olmert's relations with his close friend, attorney Uri Messer, and Talansky; his alleged deceptions of the State Comptroller's Office; and Zaken's alleged wiretapping of Olmert's conversations. The indictment was filed in Jerusalem District Court after Olmert's battery of lawyers, headed by Eli Zohar, waived their right to a hearing before Mazuz. Olmert's spokesman, Amir Dan, issued a statement after the indictment was filed declaring that "after they forced a prime minister to step down in the middle of his term, it is obvious that the attorney-general and the state attorney do not have, and never had, any choice but to file an indictment against Olmert. The court, on the other hand, is free of extraneous considerations. Olmert is convinced that in court, he can and will prove his innocence once and for all. "It is important to remember that the Cremieux Street and Bank Leumi affairs started off with big headlines that lasted for years, and ended up in nothing. That is what will happen to these affairs as well." The indictment is 60 pages long and includes a 10-page index detailing 17 trips Olmert took between the years 2002 and 2005 in which he charged the state and donors more than the flight tickets cost. The indictment states that Olmert also double-billed for hotel and transfer costs, but these are not included in the charges. It also lists 280 witnesses for the prosecution and was signed by State Attorney Moshe Lador, Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel and prosecutor Uri Korev. In the Rishon Tours affair, Olmert is charged with obtaining something by deceit under aggravated circumstances, false entry into the documents of a corporate body, fraud and breach of faith, and concealing income by deceit. Zaken is charged with obtaining something by deceit under aggravated circumstances, false entry into the documents of a corporate body, and fraud and breach of faith. According to the charge sheet, Olmert and Zaken "exploited Olmert's status and the high public offices he held to conduct systematic and prolonged activity to obtain financial benefits for Olmert in various ways and from various sources, including by deceiving organizations, public institutions, the state and government officials." In addition to defrauding the state, Olmert, Zaken and another Olmert aide, Raz-Risbi, allegedly cheated philanthropic and public organizations, including Akim - The Association for the Rehabilitation of the Mentally Handicapped, Israel Bonds, Yad Vashem, the Wiesenthal Center, the March of Life, the World Jewish Congress and others. Raz-Risbi has been charged separately in the Rishon Tours affair. The indictment contains a chart listing 17 trips that Olmert allegedly made on behalf of more than one organization, sometimes with his wife and other times with security guards, in which Raz-Risbi, at his orders, supposedly charged the organizations more than what the trip actually cost. Altogether, Olmert over-charged the state and these organizations by $92,000, according to the charge sheet. The money was allegedly kept in a secret account by the Rishon Tours tourist agency and members of Olmert's family used it for their private trips. The family trips added up to $100,000. Instead of Olmert making up the difference from his own pocket, Rishon Tours allegedly siphoned off the money from other clients without their knowledge. In some cases, Olmert made up a false travel itinerary to charge more money, according to the prosecution. Olmert also deceived the Finance Ministry by using Rishon Tours, even though it was not on the list of authorized travel agencies that could be used by government officials. He allegedly arranged with two travel agencies that were on the list to serve as "front men," while the actual purchases were carried out, illegally, by Rishon Tours. Regarding the Talansky and Messer affairs, Olmert is charged with fraud and breach of faith and receiving something by deceit in aggravated circumstances. Zaken is charged with one count of fraud and breach of faith for her role in these affairs and in the Rishon Tours case. According to the indictment, Olmert received $600,000 from Talansky between 1997 and 2005 and did not report this income. The sum included a transfer of NIS 104,500 from Talansky to Olmert's private bank account in June 1997, $300,000 to cover Olmert's debts from his election campaign for mayor of Jerusalem in 1998, gifts of $110,000 and €25,000 in 1999 and $30,000 in campaign donations. In addition, the state charged that Talansky gave Olmert $100,000 in cash delivered by Talansky in envelopes to Olmert or Zaken in Israel or to Olmert in the US. In return, Olmert allegedly intervened on Talansky's behalf to arrange appointments for him with businessmen, including with Sheldon Adelson and Yitzhak Teshuva. According to the indictment, Uri Messer kept a secret cash fund for Olmert which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of the money came from Talansky. Others, unknown to the state, also gave Olmert money. Zaken transferred the funds to Messer and kept tabs on the deposits. From time to time, Olmert would ask for some of the money. At one point, the fund amounted to $350,000. At first it was kept in a safe in Messer's office. Later it was transferred to a bank. For this and other reasons, Olmert and Messer were involved in a relationship in which Olmert was indebted to Messer for his help. Thus, the indictment maintained, Olmert should have kept a distance from Messer in his capacity as a minister. But, according to the charge sheet, he did not do so. While serving as industry and commerce minister, Olmert had overall responsibility for the Investment Center, established to encourage investments in Israel. In that capacity, he actively intervened in the requests of businessmen represented by Messer for government grants. Two of the cases in which he granted the requests of Messer's clients, against the opinion of the professionals in the ministry, involved Silicat Dimona Inc. and Shemen Industries Ltd. Olmert has also been charged with receiving something by deceit in aggravated circumstances, for providing false information and concealing facts from the State Comptroller's Office, while Zaken was charged with illegal wiretapping and fraud and breach of faith for allegedly eavesdropping on Olmert's phone conversations.