State closes Olmert improper appointments case

"Olmert overload" leads state to drop case against former PM; Holyland cases against him is still pending.

Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict 370 (photo credit: Emile Solomon/ Haaretz)
Ehud Olmert rejoices following court verdict 370
(photo credit: Emile Solomon/ Haaretz)
The state attorney decided on Tuesday to close a case against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and one of his former aides, Oved Yechezkel, for alleged improper appointments while Olmert held various ministerial portfolios.
The decision was made by Deputy Attorney-General Yehoshua Lemberger in conjunction with State Attorney Moshe Lador.
The state gave a number of reasons for closing the case, but one of the major reasons – and one of the more unusual ones – was essentially “Olmert overload.”
A press release said the case would have been delayed indefinitely if it was pursued due to the number of cases against Olmert and the sheer volume of resources necessary to pursue them. They include the four corruption cases in which Olmert was acquitted on most charges in July, and the ongoing Holyland trial, which began the same month.
Besides the delay the state noted another overload factor, namely that similar cases had been filed against Olmert and the fact that he had been convicted of the related crime of breach of trust in the prosecution’s sole victory in the July verdicts. In other words, additional cases would cover no new ground or address a crime for which Olmert had not yet been accused or convicted.
A less unusual factor in the decision to close the case against Olmert was the reduced chance for a conviction in light of a negative decision against the state when it prosecuted former cabinet minister Tzahi Hanegbi on similar charges.
Although the state said it did not consider the Hanegbi decision a binding precedent, it felt it might provide legal ammunition to Olmert’s defense.
Notably, the state spared no criticism of Olmert, saying it was confident it had the requisite evidence to prove him guilty.
This, too, has legal significance.
During sentencing, judges and prosecutors often view previous cases against the defendant that had been closed due to public interest rather than a lack of evidence in a strongly negative light.
The investigation against Olmert in this particular case began on October 14, 2007, following publication of a report by the State Comptroller criticizing as improper certain appointments Olmert made while he was a cabinet minister from 2003-2006. Police referred the case to the prosecution in 2009, giving its opinion that the appointments had involved fraud and breach of public trust.
Initially, the state concluded that from 2003 to 2005, while minister of infrastructure and construction, minister of communications and finance minister, Olmert had exploited these positions and acted in situations of conflicts of interest to help Likud Central Committee members, activists and their relatives by giving them jobs or government business, or in other ways.
The initial conclusion was that he was seeking to raise his political profile and increase his support, and had not acted according to mandated considerations in making his decisions.
As a result, Olmert and Yehezkel were invited to a hearing, providing them an opportunity to try to convince the state to close the case rather than file an indictment. The initial hearing was significantly delayed until June and then July 2011 at Olmert’s request due to the time required for his defense in three other corruption cases taking place at the time.
The state also dismissed charges against Yehezkel, finding that they were so completely intertwined with those against Olmert that it could not maintain a case against him alone.