Police to release findings on Bank Leumi affair next week

Less than a week after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss voiced suspicions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regarding charges of cronyism, the beleaguered prime minister may get a break Sunday when police deliver their findings in the investigation into the Bank Leumi affair. The Israel Police announced Wednesday that they would be releasing their conclusions on Sunday - with Intelligence and Investigation Division Chief Cmdr. Yohanan Danino signing off on the police recommendations. The case file will then be passed on to prosecutors for review, and it will ultimately be in the hands of the prosecutors to determine whether or not the case merits an indictment. Sources close to the case have said over the past two weeks that they did not believe that police would recommend an indictment against the prime minister. In January 2007, police began their criminal probe into alleged improprieties by Olmert surrounding the privatization of the bank, which occurred during Olmert's tenure as finance minister during the Sharon administration. According to allegations, in 2005, Olmert intervened in the sale of the core ownership of Bank Leumi on behalf of Frank Lowy and Daniel Abraham, two businessmen who were also personal friends of his. Before turning the case over to police, Lindenstrauss probed the allegations for almost a year after they were brought to his attention by headline-making whistleblower Yaron Zelekha. But Olmert, who was questioned twice by police investigators regarding the Bank Leumi affair, is far from done with legal troubles. Even if the Leumi case is relegated to the pages of obscure legal history, three more cases remain open against the prime minister. Earlier this month, police conducted a massive sweep, searching almost two dozen locations for evidence related to the other three investigations currently open against Olmert - all three of which were opened since the beginning of the Bank Leumi probe almost one year ago. In April, Lindenstrauss submitted to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz the final draft of his investigation into the Cremieux affair and told Mazuz it was up to him to decide whether the facts he had uncovered warranted a criminal investigation; he decided they did. In that case, Olmert allegedly received favorable terms for the purchase of his home on Jerusalem's Cremieux Street in return for helping the contractor who sold it to him. Another report published in April 2007 brought about a third police probe - this time into the decision by the Investment Center to grant "approved industry" status to Silicat Industries, Inc. - which was represented by Olmert's former law partner and close friend, Uri Messer. The status entitled the company to government benefits for construction of a silicate-producing factory in Dimona worth $48 million. Later, Olmert allegedly knocked $10m. off the guarantee the company was obliged to deposit with the government and at least another $1m. off the cost of infrastructure development for the site. The most recent investigation, which followed a Lindenstrauss report from October 2006, was opened in October 2007 following the go-ahead from Mazuz. In the course of that investigation, police are probing allegations of cronyism from when Olmert led an investment center operated by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, of political appointments by Olmert via the Small and Medium Business Authority, and of political appointments by Olmert throughout the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.