Police: Close Leumi case against PM

Investigators advise against indictment; final decision rests with incoming state attorney.

olmert says fuck 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
olmert says fuck 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received a tentative respite Thursday evening when Israel Police announced they did not think they had sufficient evidence to support allegations against him in the Bank Leumi affair. The leading lights of the police's Investigations and Intelligence Division made the decision following a three-hour long meeting at the Bat Yam headquarters of the National Fraud Squad. Despite last-minute rumors that some members of the investigative team believed that the evidence did support criminal proceedings against Olmert, police were careful to express a unified front when delivering the conclusion that was deemed most likely weeks ago. Police spokespeople following the meeting released a statement that Danino had "chosen to accept the unanimous opinion of the special investigative team" that the evidence was insufficient to determine whether or not Olmert had illegally intervened on behalf of his friends in order to "rig" the bidding process for the majority stake in Bank Leumi. The ball will now be in the court of incoming state attorney Moshe Lador, who will face the decision of determining whether to accept police recommendations and nix the investigation against the prime minister. Police spokespeople were at pains Thursday evening to emphasize that the evidence gathered neither proves nor disproves beyond a doubt whether Olmert violated ethical guidelines. Division head Cmdr. Yohanan Danino and his chief-of-staff, Lt.-Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich, met with NFS head Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon and three members of the special investigative team - Dep.-Cmdr. Eren Kamin, Ch.-Supt. Anat Clutman and Ch.-Supt. Aviad Bergman - who were tasked with investigating the allegations against the prime minister and reviewed the evidence gathered against him. The investigation was opened after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss passed on to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz information regarding the alleged involvement of then-Finance Minister Olmert in the selling-off of the controlling share of Bank Leumi during the bank's privatization process. According to allegations, Olmert intervened in the 2005 sale on behalf of Frank Lowy and Daniel Abraham, two businessmen who were also personal friends of his. Outgoing State Attorney Eran Shendar decided that in order to determine whether the evidence justified a criminal investigation, police would first carry out an initial probe into the allegations that Olmert intervened on behalf of his friends in order to secure the Bank Leumi bid. The NFS was charged with carrying out that initial probe - which they completed. After receiving the evidence gathered by the preliminary check, Shendar determined that a sufficient evidentiary basis had been uncovered to justify a criminal investigation against Olmert, alleging that the prime minister may have acted despite a clear conflict of interest. Shendar found that there was a reasonable suspicion that Olmert could have violated public confidence in his dealings surrounding the Bank Leumi sale. It was at that point - in January 2007 - that the first of what would be four criminal investigations against Olmert was launched. In the course of the investigation, police said Thursday, detectives took testimony from a number of people involved in the Bank Leumi bidding process, some of whom were questioned under warning. In addition, police searched the offices of the lawyers who handled the contract-awarding process, as well as offices at the Finance Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Commerce Ministry, both of which had been led by Olmert. Detectives also reviewed documents from international investment banks, as well as from the Bank of Israel and various communications firms. "The investigative team did not spare any effort in order to reach every piece of evidence that seemed relevant," said a spokesperson for the Israel Police Thursday.