Prosecution drops case against Messer

Prosecution drops case a

Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel announced on Thursday that he would not press charges against attorney Uri Messer for his involvement in the "Investment Center" case, in which the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry - headed at the time by former prime minister Ehud Olmert - allegedly granted millions of dollars to projects Messer had legally endorsed. "After reviewing all evidence … in the 'Investment Center' case, it was decided to close the case … due to lack of sufficient evidence," said Abarbanel's statement. Olmert had allegedly granted government funding to a number of projects proposed by his longtime legal and personal associate Messer, in particular a silica factory near Dimona in which $15 million were invested. Evidence showed that Messer had approached business clients wishing to do dealings with the government-run Investment Center, later putting them in contact with Olmert, who would "intervene" by "making fundamental decisions and even changing decisions that had already been made, all for the clients' benefit." Police findings had described the "close friendship" between Olmert and Messer, who were previously partners at a law firm. Messer went on to represent Olmert and his family in legal matters, also assisting Olmert with his political campaign. Messer was accused of having used funds granted by Moshe Talansky to cover Olmert's financial losses. However, there was not enough evidence to connect Messer to alleged acts of bribery or prove that he had acted out of a conflict of interests. "In reference to the aforementioned friendship, it cannot be proved … that this [monetary] assistance granted to Olmert by Messer was necessarily bribery." The statement distinguished between "the public figure - the industry, trade and labor minister - and the civilian working in association with him," concluding that Messer's file would be closed while Olmert, who had "broken an oath of allegiance" to the public, would be brought to trial. "Close scrutiny of the evidence showed that there were information gaps between Messer and Olmert, weakening the likelihood of Messer's awareness of the circumstances in which the crime was committed." Messer's legal representatives did not comment on the statement itself, instead saying that they "welcomed the prosecution's decision." Experts asserted later on Thursday that the decision would make it easier for the prosecution to summon Messer to testify at Olmert's trial. Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.