Olmert slams indictment of Rigby-Raz

In Rishon Tours indictment, former PM's coordinator charged with improperly securing travel funds.

olmert worried 224.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
olmert worried 224.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert sent a harshly-worded letter to Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz on Thursday, in which he slammed a decision by state prosecutors to indict his former external affairs assistant Rachel Rizby-Raz in the Rishon Tours affair. Rizby-Raz was indicted on Thursday for allegedly acting to secure travel funds for the ex-premier in an improper manner. Olmert has waived his right to a hearing with prosecutors next month. The hearing is designed to give him the opportunity to convince prosecutors not to indict him, but he said it was clear that the procedure would be pointless in light of Rizby-Raz's indictment. "We heard with shock that an indictment against Rachel Rizby-Raz was submitted," read the letter sent by Olmert's attorney Eli Zohar and spokesman Amir Dan. "Submitting this indictment... on the eve of a hearing on Mr. Ehud Olmert's issue is strong evidence that you have firmly and irreversibly made up your minds, and that there would be no use in attending a hearing with you next month," the letter continued. "We were told that an effort would be made to hold a proper hearing, as dictated by law, and that we would be heard with an open mind, or at the very least, that there would be an appearance of an open mind. "Unfortunately, with the indictment against Mrs. Rizby-Raz, and the timing in which it was submitted, you have proven that your minds are closed, and that you are no longer even trying to keep up appearances to suggest otherwise," it said. The letter accused prosecutors of "violating the correct rules of conduct," and of crudely "failing to observe Olmert's right to a legal hearing." "Under these circumstances... we won't appear for a hearing over the Rishon Tours matter. You continue to act as you see fit, and Mr. Olmert will keep all of his rights that stem from your violation of your duty to grant him a hearing." According to Rizby-Raz's charge sheet, Olmert ordered subordinates to fraudulently double charge charities and organizations for travel expenses in what has become known as the Rishon Tours affair. Israeli-Australian Rizby-Raz faces charges of fraudulently accepting goods, registering false data in corporate documents, fraud and breach of trust. In the affair, Olmert has been accused of double-billing charities and a government ministry for the same flights, sending them false receipts for travel expenses, and using the excess to pay for personal family travel. During a pre-indictment hearing held on Monday, however, Rizby-Raz's lawyer, Gadi Tal, asked that the indictment be canceled, arguing that his client was deliberately misled during the police investigation. "My central claim was that my client was robbed of her basic rights as a suspect, because she was wrongly told on several occasions that she was not a suspect," Tal told The Jerusalem Post this week. "In this way, she was not granted her right to silence or her right to an attorney. When law enforcement thought Rizby-Raz had given up the information she had, it then turned around and told her she was a suspect," he added. Tal said police were following instructions from state prosecutors to mislead Rizby-Raz. During Monday's hearing, the prosecution rejected Tal's arguments, and state prosecutor Uri Korev wrote that "there was sufficient evidence to place Rizby-Raz on trial."