Prosecution drops case against Messer

Prosecution drops case a

Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel announced on Thursday that the state was closing the case against attorney Uri Messer, who was investigated by police in connection with two affairs for which his close friend, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, is currently on trial. The first case involved allegations that as industry and trade minister and communications minister, Olmert personally intervened in applications to the Investment Center from industrialists represented by Messer, and interfered with the work of the center's professional civil servants on behalf of Messer and his clients. In the second case, Messer was investigated regarding allegations that he held hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, given to Olmert by New York businessman Morris Talansky, in his office safe and later in a Bank Leumi strongbox. Messer testified to police against his close friend during the Talansky affair investigation. Since then, he and Olmert have not spoken to each other. In his announcement, Abarbanel made it clear that the decision to close the file against Messer would have no bearing on the indictment of Olmert. Abarbanel wrote that the law prohibiting "fraud and breach of trust" was primarily aimed at public servants rather than private individuals. Abarbanel added that had Olmert's involvement constituted a severe aberration from the norm, Messer could have been charged with fraud and breach of trust, but that this was not the case in the Investment Center affair. With regard to the allegations that he held large sums of money for Olmert, Abarbanel wrote that "it is doubtful that Messer's actions amount to a criminal act." Messer was not a public servant and had nothing to do with the transfer of money from Talansky to Olmert, wrote Abarbanel. In response, Olmert's spokesman Amir Dan issued a statement Thursday saying, "The state prosecution should reconsider its decision to indict Olmert because of the state's dramatic statement that Messer's actions were not a severe aberration from the norm and that holding money for Olmert was not a criminal act at all." In the Investment Center affair, the state has charged Olmert with fraud, and breach of trust and cronyism for being in a clear conflict of interest between his public responsibilities and his personal friendship with Messer.