Olmert: 'Talansky never gave me gifts, it’s all fantasy'

State attorney to former prime minister on third day of cross-examination: You attack anyone who causes you problems

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)
On the third day of cross-examination in Ehud Olmert’s corruption trial Thursday, the former prime minister continued to clash with State Attorney Uri Korb as he was questioned about the “cash envelopes” he allegedly received from US businessman Moshe Talansky.
Throughout, Olmert continued to insist that the funds Talansky had given him were donations for political activities or reimbursements for expenses incurred during trips or events in which Talansky had taken an interest.
Korb asked Olmert to explain why, during police questioning in July 2008, he had described Talansky as a “crook.” Olmert said that during the investigation and subsequent trial he had discovered certain things about the businessman that he had not previously known.
“You attack anyone and everyone who causes problems for you, even your own people, your lawyers, your media people,” Korb said.
Olmert responded angrily, rejecting Korb’s “mean-spirited” words.
Korb later questioned the former prime minister again about the $150,000 that Talansky gave to Olmert’s campaign organization in 1999, asking whether he had heard about it either from the businessman or from Uri Messer, Olmert’s associate who managed the campaign.
“At the time I was not aware of it,” Olmert replied. “I was not informed that the money was from Talansky. It could be that at a later time I did know.”
In questioning Olmert further about the $150,000, Korb asked, “When someone donates $150,000, you don’t call him and thank him personally?” Olmert replied that he had thanked Talansky personally but did not remember exactly when.
Korb next questioned Olmert about testimony he gave to police during his investigation in 2008 regarding cash Talansky allegedly gave him. He asked Olmert whether during his time as minister of industry and trade he had heard from Talansky or Shula Zaken, his former aide, about donations in cash.
Korb read to Olmert a section from a protocol of Talansky’s 2008 police questioning in which the businessman was asked whether he had ever given Olmert or Zaken cash.
“They asked me for cash and so I gave them cash,” Talansky said at that time.
Olmert reacted angrily.
“I never asked Talansky for donations in cash. I asked Talansky to raise money for political campaigns. I did not ever ask for specific sums in cash,” he responded.
Korb said Talansky told investigators he had given Olmert cash on several occasions during meetings in New York.
Later, Korb read sections from the protocol in which investigators asked the businessman to comment on the fact that Olmert had claimed never to have received cash from him.
“What do I think about it, I know he’s a liar, he’s a goniff [thief], I know he’s a liar,” Talansky said.
Korb also read where Talansky told investigators he had given Olmert gifts of cigars and pens. “When you love money, it’s never enough,” Talansky is quoted as having said.
Olmert replied by saying, “First I’m his friend, now I’m a liar and a thief? Talansky did not ever give me cigars or pens or anything. It’s all fantasies.”
Throughout the cross examination, Korb repeatedly asked Olmert to explain why he had not told investigators that he had received cash from Talansky. During police questioning, Olmert denied receiving cash from Talansky during his time as minister of industry and trade. Korb now asked him why he did not even hint during his investigation that he had received cash from Talansky.
The former prime minister answered that he understood at the time that investigators were asking him about illegal monies and not political donations.
“So every time the investigators asked you a simple question about receiving cash, you answered as if they were asking you about illegal monies?” Korb asked.
Olmert answered that he answered in the same context to which he was asked.
“I say you chose to conceal the money you received,” Korb said.
Later in the cross examination, Olmert told the court that during his time as mayor of Jerusalem, he had received money “two or three times” from Talansky to cover the expenses for events in which Talansky was personally interested.
Korb further questioned Olmert about the relationship between Talansky and Shula Zaken, Olmert’s former aide.
Olmert responded that he did not know of any special relationship between the two, but added that Talansky knew Zaken well and spoke to her in a friendly manner, although the businessman spoke in English and Zaken in Hebrew.
The former prime minister clashed with Korb again later in the cross examination when the prosecutor attempted to prove that Olmert had changed his story between his first and second interrogations to match what Talansky had said. Olmert was questioned by police at the beginning of May 2008 and again three weeks later.
Olmert claimed that he could not have changed his story because he did not read the protocols from Talansky’s questioning before being questioned again by police.
The reason he gave was that as prime minister he had been far too busy with other duties.
“When should I have read [the protocols]? ” he told Korb. “Instead of dealing with the prime minister of Romania? Instead of dealing with the prime minister of Latvia? Instead of Tony Blair? Maybe I should have telephoned [former US president] Bush or Abu Mazen and told them I was too busy because I had to read transcripts?”
When Korb responded that Olmert could have easily read the material instead of watching a football match or sleeping, Olmert told him he should be “ashamed” of himself.
“Any lawyer would have advised you to read the transcripts,”said Korb, noting that Olmert himself is a qualified attorney.
Olmert then claimed that his lawyers had only received the transcripts on May 20, 2008, three days before his own scheduled interrogation.
Korb further questioned Olmert about his answers to police in the initial 2008 investigation in which he had claimed never to have received cash from Talansky.
“When I opened the newspaper that morning I saw that I had been accused of receiving illegal monies, so when I was asked [by investigators] ‘did you receive money,’ I said no, I did not,” answered Olmert.
Korb told Olmert he was deliberately confusing political donations and cash from Talansky.
“I’m not confusing anything, I’m telling the truth,” said Olmert.
“There was no cash, just donations.”
When Korb questioned Olmert about whether he knew Zaken had received cash from Talansky while Olmert was minister of industry and trade, Olmert said he he didn’t remember getting anything from Talansky at the time.
The former prime minister also claimed he did not know that Talansky had given $30,000 to his brother, Yossi Olmert. According to the prosecution, Yossi Olmert received the money a day after a meeting took place between the defendant and Talansky.
In testimony delivered in court last year as part of the trial of Olmert and Zaken, Talansky confirmed that he transferred $30,000 to Yossi Olmert in November 2004.
The Olmert brother’s name has been linked to another corruption affair allegedly involving the former prime minister – the Holyland scandal. There have been reports that Ehud Olmert used some of the bribe money he allegedly received from the Holyland developers to help him repay his debts.
Olmert insisted he had not known that Talansky gave money to his brother and told the court that the meeting the prosecution claimed he had with Talansky had never taken place.
Olmert’s cross examination is set to continue next week.