Talansky's testimony begins in illicit funding case against PM

State Attorney Lador: Testimony is a trial procedure, does not indicate state has decided whether to indict Olmert or aide Shula Zaken.

talansky 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
talansky 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The investigation into allegations that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted illegal payments from American-Jewish businessman Morris Talansky took a dramatic turn Tuesday when Talansky, testifying as a witness for the prosecution, took the stand in the Jerusalem District Court. The testimony was set to be a trial procedure, even though the state has not yet decided whether to indict Olmert or his close aide, Shula Zaken. State Attorney Moshe Lador, who was set to put the questions to Talansky on behalf of the state. has stressed that the fact that a trial procedure was taking place does not indicate in any way that the state has decided to prosecute the prime minister or Zaken. However, if an indictment is ultimately served, Tuesday's hearing will become an integral part of the trial, and Talansky's testimony will be part of the evidence that the court considers when deciding whether or not to convict Olmert or his aide. The Justice Ministry spokesman said that on Monday, Lador briefed the witness for 20 minutes on court procedures, the process of examination and cross-examination, the fact that the court will consist of a panel of three judges, and so on. Afterward, Talansky spent half an hour reading over the testimony he had given police during the investigation so far, to refresh his memory regarding material that he will be questioned on during the hearing. Jerusalem District Court President Moussia Arad has ordered that the hearing will continue until both sides have finished their questioning. However, the attorneys for Olmert and Zaken, Eli Zohar, Nevot Tel-Tzur, Ro'i Blecher, Hadas Berkowitz and Micha Fetman, have said they will ask for a recess after the state finishes its examination. They were expected to argue that they did not receive most of the evidence gathered by police until Friday, and therefore did not have enough time to prepare for cross-examination. Last week, the battery of prosecution lawyers, including Lador, Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel and Uri Korev, opposed the request of Olmert's and Zaken's lawyers for a two-week postponement of Talansky's early testimony. The court agreed to put it off by two days only. Officially, the state has provided limited details about the potential charges against Olmert and the allegations against him. In an appearance before the Supreme Court on May 19, Lador said that the potential charges against the prime minister included fraud and breach of faith, tax evasion, false registration of income, violation of the law against public servants receiving gifts and bribery. Lador added that Olmert had allegedly received cash payments from Talansky in Israel and the US. Zaken had allegedly received most of the payments, but at least one was allegedly given directly to Olmert. On May 21, after the court lifted a gag order on additional elements of the case, the police released hundreds of e-mail messages between Olmert and Zaken, including detailed lists of sums of money received from Talansky and transferred to Attorney Uri Messer, Olmert's close friend and private lawyer. The memos included dates and sums of money that Talansky gave Olmert, indicating that most of the payments ranged between $10,000 and $20,000. However, there was one for $70,000 and another for $27,000. Olmert has claimed that the money went to fund his primaries election campaigns. But the investigation has focused on payments made between 2003 and 2006, when the prime minister did not run in any primary race.