Talansky probe to be speeded up

Ex-investigator says police can already recommend PM be charged with breach of trust.

mazuz 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
mazuz 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The investigation into Morris Talansky's alleged monetary gifts to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could be wrapped up in six to 12 weeks, according to police sources speaking after Thursday's meeting of Justice Ministry and police officials. According to a senior Justice Ministry official, investigators still plan to question witnesses in the United States in connection with the inquiry and have already submitted an application to the US Justice Department. It is not clear whether the US government has yet approved the request, but according to the official such applications are generally processed quickly. He indicated that all suspects in the Talansky affair - including Talansky himself, the prime minister's close aid, Shula Zaken and Attorney Uri Messer, will be investigated. After the meeting, the Justice Ministry said that "the top echelon of the state prosecution and the police investigation department" had "agreed to advance and complete" the probe "as quickly as possible." The idea, the official said, was to complete the investigation of everyone involved, but not to go beyond the investigation. For example, investigators won't inquire into other donors or the money they allegedly gave Olmert or what it was used for. Nor will it investigate possible links between the Talansky affair and an earlier police investigation of allegations that Olmert, in his capacity as minister of trade and industry, aided Messer in ways which constituted an illegal conflict of interests. The official added that he saw no reason why the state could not complete its investigation and decide whether or not to indict Olmert and/or others before July 17, the date set for the resumption of Talansky's early testimony. Meanwhile, a former chief police investigator told The Jerusalem Post that Thursday's decision to speed things up will have no practical effect on the investigation. "[Attorney General] Mazuz needed to release this statement for the media," he said. "It was a PR effort. In reality, do you think the police are not working as quickly as they can?" He added that the National Fraud Unit can already recommend that Olmert be indicted for breach of public trust at the very least. "They have this one, big central charge, and they need to go through with it and recommend the indictment, for the good of Israel and for law enforcement in this country," he said. "And they should do it before July's cross-examination of Talansky." While Talansky's public court appearance on Tuesday helped awaken the public to the "ugliness" of the allegations, he said, "it also shot the police and prosecution in the foot, because when the cross-examination comes Talansky will be hit with attempts to discredit him. And he will not be given an opportunity to explain himself." The former chief investigator said Olmert's lawyers would do their best to "make Talansky stutter in court" and point out contradictions in his story. "But no one is contesting that there was a violation of public trust," he said. "Bribery allegations can be investigated in full at a later stage."