Olmert faces fourth indictment

Prosecution awaiting pretrial hearing in sinecures case.

Olmert reads statement 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Olmert reads statement 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now facing the likelihood of a fourth indictment, on charges that he handed out sinecures in the Authority for Small-and Medium-Sized Business to senior Likud Party members whose political support he needed  while serving as Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment in 2004 and 2005.
The decision to indict him is conditional on the outcome of a hearing which the state prosecution is offering Olmert’s lawyers. Olmert waived his right to a hearing regarding three other affairs in which he has already been indicted, Rishontours, Talansky and the Investment Center.
“The head of the Economic Department in the State Attorney’s Office informed the attorneys of Mr. Ehud Olmert and Mr. Oved Yehezkel that ... the possibility is being considered of trying them on criminal charges regarding suspicions that they committed violations in this affair,” the Justice Ministry spokesman announced.
“The main suspicions are that throughout this period ... the suspects exploited their status and prerogatives in the various ministries they controlled and acted, in a conflict of interests, in an organized, systematic and broad manner to advance the interests of members of the Likud Central Committee, Likud activists and their friends.
“They did this in order to do them favors and to please them by helping them find work, and in responding to their requests on different matters involving the civil service officials in order to strengthen Olmert’s political position.”
Olmert, who in addition to heading the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Education also served at various times during 2004 and 2005 as deputy prime minister, minister of finance and minister of communications, did favors in various institutions including Bezeq, the Postal Authority, the Employment Service, the Small- and Medium-Sized Business Authority and the Israel Lands Authority. He is also suspected of appointing Likud activists as public representatives in the labor courts.
The state is considering charging Olmert and Yehezkel with fraud and breach of faith and of trying to influence those with the right to vote to vote for Olmert in return for the promise of future favors.
The hearing, if Olmert asks for one, will be held before DeputyState Attorney for Criminal Matters Yehoshua Lemberger. Ministryofficials said they would be considerate of Olmert within reasonablebounds, and would try not to make things hard for him in view of thetrial currently being conducted against him and “all the relevantcircumstances.”
The police questioned 400 witnesses during theinvestigation, which grew out of a much smaller one conducted by StateComptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
Lindenstrauss investigatedpolitical appointments in the Small- and Medium-Sized BusinessesAuthority, which is a non-governmental body whose budget comes entirelyfrom the government via the Ministry of Industry, Commerce andEmployment.
In a report published in 2006, Lindenstrauss foundthat Olmert and his director-general, Raanan Dinur, changed theconstitution of the authority so that it would be more flexibleregarding the appointment of a chairperson and budget allocation.
“Afterthat,” charged the state comptroller, “the heads of the Ministry ofIndustry, Commerce and Employment used the authority as a springboardfor appointments based on political considerations and through improperprocedures.”
The heads of the ministry, including Olmert,subsequently appointed a deputy director-general for the authority whohad personal and political ties to Olmert. One of her duties was to beresponsible for projects. Soon afterwards, the authority establishedthree new projects and appointed project heads for each.
Thestate comptroller found that all three project heads were members ofthe Likud Central Committee and that two of them had vied for the Likudsecretariat. They were hired according to a procedure which was “notequal-opportunity, and improper,” Lindenstrauss charged. Two of thethree projects had not been originally included in the authority’s workprogram.
On October 14, 2007, then-attorney-general MenahemMazuz ordered police to investigate the allegations against Olmert andothers involved in both this case and the Investment Center affair.Later, the state prosecution decided to separate the investigations,largely because of Olmert’s attorney and close friend Uri Messer, whowas involved in the Talansky and the Investment Center affairs.
Inresponse to the Justice Ministry decision, Olmert’s public relationsspokesman Amir Dan published the following statement and asked that itbe published in full:
“1. The investigation into this matterbegan more than two years ago and the timing of the prosecution’sannouncement at this precise moment raises hard questions with regardto the calculations and good faith of those responsible for it.
2.For the past three weeks, we have witnesses a campaign of unrestrainedincitement against Olmert by law enforcement elements even though hehas not even been interrogated at all about Holyland and without beingasked a single question. The publication of the decision today is adirect continuation of the publications from the previous weeks and ispart of a prolonged and planned persecution campaign at a time when weare fully in the midst of a trial. This announcement will have a directand improper influence on anyone asked to testify during these days.
3.We are talking about a matter which has been blown out of allproportion. There was nothing wrong with the procedure for appointingthese job-holders and many of them (in those cases where the lawrequires it) were even approved by the Ravivi Committee, which isresponsible for investigating public service appointments. Furthermore,no improper pressure was applied against anyone to approve theseappointments which were made in accordance with all the criteriaincluded in the law.
4. Does the law enforcement system reallyhave nothing else to do or no other way of making a name for itself,other than by Olmert? It is surprising that the state prosecution hasnot yet begun to investigate Olmert on suspicion that he did not crossthe street at a cross-walk.”