Olmert: I didn't book my flights, was 'unaware' of my miles

Ex-prime minister says he flew so much he figured he had accumulated surplus of frequent-flyer miles; claims Rishon Tours "must have known."

Olmert arriving at trial 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Olmert arriving at trial 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday that he was unaware of the specifics behind how Rishon Tours and other travel agencies counted air miles because he himself did not book his flights. On the fourth day of his testimony, he denied that he exploited Rishon Tours’ frequent-flyer miles system when booking for himself or his family, hinting that the agency might have had an interest in using funds from organizations instead of available air miles.
The former prime minister has been indicted on charges that he billed two and sometimes three different organizations to pay for his flight expenses when traveling abroad. He is accused of pocketing roughly NIS 90,000 to pay for flight tickets and upgrades for family members.
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“I flew countless trips the last number of years,” Olmert said, adding that while he knew he had accumulated a large number of air miles with many different companies, he was never aware of exactly how many points he had collected from any specific travel agency.
The former prime minister said that he had assumed that the more business or first class flights one flies, the more miles one receives.
Olmert stressed that his travel coordinator, Rachel Rizby-Raz, and Rishon Tours both knew what his miles situation was, and that Rizby- Raz would not have been able to book flights if Rishon Tours was unsure about his credit.
He said that he never discussed using surplus miles for foreign flights with his travel coordinator.
The former prime minister also hinted that perhaps someone in Rishon Tours actually tried to profit off of his excess miles, purposefully failing to disclose information about Olmert’s account.
He even asked why a representative of the travel agency wasn’t present in the courtroom.
On Monday, Olmert conceded that there may have been mistakes made in the payments for his flights, but rejected the claim that he had knowingly swindled nonprofit organizations or that he was criminally responsible for the acts he was accused of.
He has claimed that because trips were organized months in advance, Rizby-Raz may have added on additional sponsors as new events were scheduled in the time between the booking and the actual flight.
Thursday’s testimony aimed to further distance Olmert from the logistical goings on in his office. In the last two weeks of testimony his lawyers have attempted to paint him as a busy man who sacrificed his all to public service and was too occupied with matters of state to worry himself over the mundane details of the office expenses.
The defense has also attempted to establish the complete trust that Olmert put in his staff, especially his personal aide Shula Zaken, to further stress his distance from the alleged offenses.