Olmert denies trying to obstruct Rishon Tours investigation

Prosecutor hints former prime minister tried to disrupt probe by discussing it with his family.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert with lawyer in court 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert with lawyer in court 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The verbal clashes between Ehud Olmert and state prosecutor Uri Korb that erupted during last week’s cross-examination continued on Monday in the Jerusalem District Court.
During his continued questioning of Olmert, who is indicted on a string of corruption charges, Korb hinted that the former prime minister tried to obstruct the police investigation into the Rishon Tours affair.
Korb asked Olmert whether he had discussed the Rishon Tours investigation with his wife and children before they were questioned about the matter by police.
Olmert is accused of billing two or even three different organizations to pay for flights and upgrades for family members on trips abroad, to a total of around NIS 90,000.
The prosecution says it has identified 17 double billed trips during 2006-2009 when Olmert was prime minister.
Korb quoted to Olmert sections from the police interrogation of his wife, Aliza, in which she told investigators that she and Olmert had tried to remember together about trips included in the charge sheet.
“We are a family that talks to each other,” Olmert told the court, and denied that he had tried to obstruct the investigation in this way.
Amir Dan, Olmert’s spokesman, later told The Jerusalem Post that the prosecutor’s question regarding Olmert’s family was “absurd.”
“Of course Olmert is entitled to talk to his wife and son,” said Dan. “The prosecution is engaged in media spin. They are doing this deliberately, because they feel they are getting nowhere – so they want to try to create a spin for the media.”
Dan accused the prosecutor of timing this particular question for Monday’s cross-examination because he knew it would coincide with the lifting of a media ban on details of allegations that former president Moshe Katsav hired private investigators to trick witnesses in his rape trial.
“The prosecutors knew that the story about Katsav’s witnesses would be in the media today, so they decided to hint about something similar in the Olmert case,” he said. “They can’t win on the facts so they are resorting to dirty tricks.”
During Monday’s cross-examination, Korb also questioned Olmert about fundraising activities he is alleged to have engaged in during 1998 and 1999, when he was mayor of Jerusalem.
He told the court that Olmert had previously told police investigators that he did not engage in fundraising in that period but that under cross-examination the former prime minister had admitted fundraising during 1998-1999, although he maintained that he did not know the names of all the donors.
Olmert said that the investigation to which Korb referred took place in July 2010 and is connected to a “thief and fraud who has become a state witness in the Holyland [real estate] affair and who published faked check stubs that had “Shula for E.O.” written on them so that everyone would think they were connected with me, and only after he turned state witness did he say admit they were faked.” Shula was an apparent reference to Shula Zaken, Olmert’s longtime bureau chief.
Olmert maintained that he had never concealed his fundraising activities.
The cross-examination is set to continue this week, until the courts’ summer recess.