Talansky willing to complete testimony

Israeli attorneys ask Justice Ministry to set date for hearing in Olmert 'cash envelopes' probe.

Talansky court 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Talansky court 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
After months of wheedling, rumors and even threats from the Justice Ministry, US businessman Moshe Talansky's attorneys announced Tuesday that their client would be returning to Israel to complete his testimony against outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In a letter addressed to State Attorney Moshe Lador and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, Talansky's Israeli counsel, attorneys Yehoshua Resnick and Jacques Chen, said their client would return, but did not set a date for that testimony. Instead, they asked the Israeli authorities to arrange a hearing in which Talansky would complete his unfinished testimony. A Justice Ministry official said a date would be set in the coming weeks. The official also told The Jerusalem Post that the ministry had received a separate letter from Bradley Simon, Talansky's American attorney, but would not discuss its contents, reiterating that the ministry was only working in concert with Talansky's Israeli representatives. Simon, who has consistently advised Talansky not to return to the witness stand in Israel because of the risk that his testimony may be used to support criminal charges against him in the US, told the Post that he had written to ask Israeli authorities to ensure his client would be protected against self-incrimination when he continued his testimony. "This poses a great risk to him," Simon told the Post. The announcement came less than two weeks after the Justice Ministry fired off a threatening letter to Chen, demanding a final answer as to when - or even whether - the businessman and fundraiser would return to Israel as he had promised to complete his testimony in the so-called "cash envelopes" affair. That letter came in response to a suggestion by Chen that Talansky return only after Olmert completed his pre-indictment hearing before Mazuz. The prosecution rejected the proposal, arguing that Talansky's testimony should not be tied to the rest of the proceedings against Olmert. Less than a month ago, Mazuz announced that he planned to indict Olmert on a series of charges related to the affair. Talansky failed to return to Israel in September after US investigators launched their own probe against him. He is currently the target of a federal grand jury investigation in the US on an array of charges, including money laundering, tax evasion and bribery. In January, the US Department of Justice offered him limited immunity, preventing his own testimony from being used as direct evidence in US courts. However, Simon has dismissed the offer because it would not prevent US authorities from using the testimony as a road map in their own investigation. Israeli authorities have sought to pressure Talansky into returning by seizing his home in Jerusalem. The US businessman has denied any criminal liability in the affair. Allison Hoffman contributed to this report from New York.