Police: PM statement won't affect probes

Olmert to be grilled again Fri.; Talansky says he has "no comment" over news of premier's resignation.

Talansky hold it 224.8 (photo credit: AP )
Talansky hold it 224.8
(photo credit: AP )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement on Wednesday in which he said he will step down from office in two months will have no bearing on the police investigations into the premier, a National Fraud Unit spokeswoman said. "The investigation continues as normal. Detectives will question Olmert on Friday at his residence irrespective [of his announcement]," the spokeswoman added. Morris Talansky, the Long Island businessman suspected of unlawfully giving Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars, said he had "no comment" over the news of Olmert's resignation. The Justice Ministry also refused to respond. Olmert is expected to be questioned again on Friday over the Olmertours affair, in which he is suspected of double-billing several charities and a government ministry for the same flights, and using the excess to fund personal family flights. Beyond the Olmertours and Talansky investigations, Olmert faces another three police investigations. Police are examining the terms of Olmert's $1.2 million purchase of an apartment in Jerusalem in 2004. Olmert has faced long-standing suspicions, according to which he purchased the apartment on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem from its developer, the Alumot MG Engineering Corporation, at a significant discount, while serving as acting prime minister, in exchange for shortening the bureaucratic processes within the Jerusalem Municipality for Alumot. Olmert is under investigation for allegedly appointing cronies to the Medium and Small Enterprises Authority and other government bodies while serving as industry, trade and labor minister between 2003 and 2005. In 2007, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss called on police to investigate allegations that Olmert arranged investment opportunities for a friend while he serving as the industry, trade and labor minister. Former National Fraud Unit chief investigator Dep.-Cmdr (ret.) Boaz Guttman said police were overextending the investigations. "The police have so much material relating to Olmert that it gives you a headache to look at it," he said. "In a white-collar crime case, which is what this is, no one has the full picture - neither state prosecutors nor defense lawyers. The police don't need the Cremieux case. They don't need to investigate every detail relating to Olmert. Right now, there is enough material for a sure conviction of fraud and a violation of public trust," Guttman added. But the police and the Justice Ministry were "cumbersome and inefficient" bodies with built-in problems, Guttman said, which is why the investigations have been so drawn out. "I very much fear that investigators are investigating for the sake of investigating, and not to reach an indictment. Charges could have been made yesterday, based only on Olmert's speech to the nation on Independence Day [in which he denied taking money from Talansky], and documents from the Talansky affair. It doesn't matter how much money Talansky gave Olmert." In the meantime, "Olmert still enjoys immunity by way of his being a Knesset member, and he can still try to disrupt the investigation as much as he can," Guttman added.