Talansky testimony delayed until Tuesday

Police challenge PM with statements from NY financier, Messer in second round of questioning

talansky 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
talansky 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
New York financier Morris Talansky will begin his pre-trial testimony on Tuesday, two days later than originally scheduled, according to a ruling handed down by the Jerusalem District Court on Friday. The testimony will continue in the following days if necessary. Attorney Micha Fetman, representing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's close aide, Shula Zaken, told The Jerusalem Post that after the state finishes questioning Talansky, the attorneys for Olmert and Zaken will ask the court for an adjournment until June, when Talansky is due to return to Israel for the wedding of his grandchild, scheduled for June 11. The court handed down its ruling after the state and the lawyers for Olmert and Zaken failed to reach a compromise agreement among themselves. Last week, after the High Court of Justice rejected their request to cancel the pre-trial testimony altogether, Olmert's lawyers, Eli Zohar, Nevot Tel-Tzur, and Ro'i Blecher, along with Fetman, asked the Jerusalem District Court to postpone the testimony until June 6. They argued that they needed more time to prepare for the cross-examination of the witness. The state did not respond to the request but asked the court to hold a hearing before the end of the week to sort out the matter. At the opening of the hearing on Friday, State Attorney Moshe Lador asked the court to allow the sides to try to reach agreement among themselves. The presiding judge, Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad, agreed. However, after a lengthy recess, the sides reported back to the court that they had failed to reach an agreement. The hearing resumed and Zohar, Olmert's chief counsel, suggested that the testimony begin on Sunday with the questioning of the witness by the state. After the state completed its examination, there would be a recess and Talansky would be allowed to leave Israel. The cross-examination would be held when he returned next month. Talansky's lawyer, Jacques Chen, had already gone on record in a previous hearing in the Supreme Court that his client would return to Israel in June. Zohar added that if the witness failed to keep his word, the defense would not claim before the court that the testimony he had already given should be disregarded. Lador rejected Zohar's proposal and Zohar then asked to withdraw the request for a postponement and begin Talansky's testimony on Sunday as scheduled. Lador then surprised the court by saying the state also needed more time to prepare its questioning. In the end, the court ruled that the beginning of the pre-trial testimony will begin on Tuesday and continue as long as required. When their turn comes to question Talansky, the defense lawyers will once again try their luck to obtain a postponement from the court. Meanwhile, on Friday, police asked Olmert during the prime minister's second session of questioning under warning to respond to the testimony of his close associate and former legal partner Uri Messer. The prime minister was questioned by detectives at his residence in Jerusalem. Olmert was also confronted with the testimony of Talansky, and his aides said he was responsive to questions put to him by Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon, head of the National Fraud Unit, and Ch.-Supt. Itzik Avraham, who heads a team of detectives investigating the Talansky affair. After completing their interrogation, Ayalon and Avraham drove to the National Fraud Unit's Bat Yam headquarters to update Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, head of the Israel Police Investigations Department, on their findings. Friday's round of questioning came as reports surfaced of new theories being explored by police on what Olmert may have done in exchange for Talansky's money. According to one report, Olmert - while serving as the industry, trade, and labor minister between 2003 and 2005 - may have approached an Israeli diplomat stationed in South America in order to promote a technological innovation in which Talansky had invested. During earlier interrogations, Talansky had admitted to police that he paid for a number of Olmert's flights abroad and shopping expenses, leading the National Fraud Unit to believe that Olmert "personally used" Talansky's funds. A former senior police investigator said such illegal and significant donations made over a long period of time often indicate an expectation by the donor of future assistance when needed. "Often, what happens is that contributions come in for years, and when a favor is needed in the opposite direction, it's granted," he said.