Olmert’s bank accounts to be scrutinized over alleged cash

Former PM: Talansky never transferred money to my personal account and I never asked him to.

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)
Judges in the Jerusalem District Court agreed Tuesday to a request from the prosecution in the trial of former PM Ehud Olmert to issue a court order requiring Israeli banks to provide statements from Olmert’s personal accounts between June 1996 and June 1998.
The court order was requested after the prosecution accused Olmert of using money donated in 1997 by American businessman Moshe Talansky to cover personal deficits.
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Olmert maintains the money was used to cover expenses in the Likud “fictitious invoices” trial in 1997. The former prime minister had been charged with involvement in a case of illegal donations received by Likud from various companies during 1988. He was completely acquitted of all charges in that case.
Olmert’s defense team, attorneys Navot Tel-Tzur and Roi Balcher, strongly objected to the judges’ decision to issue a court order to Olmert’s banks.
Amir Dan, Olmert’s spokesperson, also slammed the court’s decision.
“The prosecution are on a fishing trip. They are in such difficulties that after collecting 200 boxes of investigation material, they only just remembered to ask for 15-year-old bank statements about matters that are not even listed in the charge sheet,” Dan said in a later statement.
The court also ruled on Tuesday to withhold Olmert’s request for a media ban on publicizing the names of other people who had given him donations.
The former prime minister was asked again to give the names of other people who had donated but repeated previous requests that he be allowed to refrain from saying the names in court because he did not want them to be published.
Instead, Olmert wrote the names on a piece of paper and handed it to the judges and the prosecutor.
The judges upheld Olmert’s request that the names not be published, despite an objection from one journalist who argued that there is no legal basis to withhold the donors’ names in a public trial such as this one.
During Tuesday’s cross-examination, state attorney Uri Korb also questioned the former prime minister over a loan of $75,000 that he received in 1993 from American millionaire Joe Almaliah.
Korb asked Olmert to explain why sums from Talansky and Almaliah were received to his personal account in Israel.
He also questioned the former prime minister about whether he recalled asking Talansky for a donation and whether that money had been used to pay for his expenses in the “fictitious invoices” suit.
Olmert continued to maintain that Talansky had never transferred any money into his personal bank account and that he had never asked him to do so.
In later questioning, Olmert explained why he had told police investigators in 2008 that an additional sum of $100,000 in his account was due to sales of paintings by his wife, Aliza Olmert. The former prime minister said he had given a “spontaneous answer” because at the time of the interrogation he had remembered only the painting sales but not any donations.
In response to Korb’s assertion that Olmert’s answer to police had been baseless, the former prime minister said that in 2006, his wife Aliza had held an exhibition of her work in the US, and that explained the large sum, and added that Korb’s questions were a hurtful attempt to slur his wife.
“It seems bizarre to me that you got $100,000 for the pictures only in 2006,” said Korb, who later put to Olmert that Aliza Olmert had not had income approaching that sum in previous years and that no documentation of painting sales had been found, although investigators had asked him to provide it.
Korb later questioned Olmert on the circumstances of his asking Almaliah, from whom he had received a loan of $75,000, for a further gift of $100,000.
“You asked a man to whom you owed $75,000 if he could give you a gift and you don’t remember having that conversation with him?” asked Korb.
Olmert said that he had a close personal friendship for many years with Almaliah.
“He’s a close friend. I can ask him for things that I don’t ask from those who are not my friends,” said Olmert.
In later questioning, Korb presented Olmert with printed pages from the office diary of his former aide, Shula Zaken.
In a 2004 diary entry, Zaken had recorded that she had received $72,000 from Talansky.
In the same entry, Zaken had written the words “I gave $7,500 to Ehud.”
Olmert maintained that he had not seen the diary pages before and noted that the Zaken’s entry might have meant that she transferred the money to various “significant” public events he was organizing at the time, including events connected to the disengagement from Gaza.
“If Shula did transfer money, it’s most likely that it would have been connected to that, but I don’t remember it,” Olmert said.
Korb also referred to telephone conversations that took place between Zaken and Talansky and said that together with the entries in Zaken’s diary, they indicated that Olmert had requested that Talansky give him the $72,000.
“He gave the money at your request,” said Korb.
Olmert replied that he completely denied the prosecution’s allegation.
The cross-examination is set to continue until Thursday.