Talansky: Olmert asked me to give brother $30,000

Former PM’s team: Testimony completely contradicts earlier statement to police that "Olmert hated his brother."

Ehoud Olmert 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ehoud Olmert 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Morris Talansky, the main witness from the Jerusalem corruption trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert, took a second swing at Olmert on Sunday at the Tel Aviv District Court in the Holyland trial.
“Ehud Olmert called me and told me his brother was in economic trouble after losing in the elections, and asked me to help him,” said Talansky, in discussing three documents which the state presented to him.
Talansky indicated that he eventually gave Yossi Olmert $30,000 in 2004 in response to Olmert’s request.
He also called Olmert's former aide Shula Zaken “the alter ego” of the former prime minister.
The state called Talansky to show that even as far back as 2004, a time period close in time to many of the accusations of bribery against Olmert in the Holyland trial, Yossi Olmert had a pattern of conduct of asking others to help his brother pay off his debts.
Olmert’s legal team has denied that he made any attempts to get others to pay off Yossi Olmert’s debts.
Olmert is accused of taking bribes of NIS 500,000 – out of an overall NIS 9 million in accused bribes, most of which allegedly went to him directly – to specifically help his brother pay off his debts from S.D., the main witness in the case whose identity is protected under a gag order.
Olmert and 15 other defendants are accused of accepting the bribes to help advance the Holyland project despite legal, zoning and other violations.
This was the first time Talansky had testified in court since testifying in 2008 that Olmert had received envelopes with large amounts of cash from him, in what is now known as the Talansky Affair.
Although Talansky’s testimony was the final straw that brought Olmert down as prime minister, he was acquitted in the Talansky Affair and only convicted of the minor crime of breach of trust in the Investment Affair.
In no small part, Olmert was acquitted because Talansky himself was viewed by the Jerusalem District Court as a loose cannon who, while making some truthful allegations against the former prime minister, also seemed to change his story as time passed, often in ways that were hard to follow.
In that vein, calling him as a witness in the Holyland case was considered by many to be a high-stakes move by the state, and Talansky did not disappoint, with a repeat performance of unexpected and varying answers as well as controversial remarks.
Regarding his assistance to Yossi Olmert, Talansky said that Ehud Olmert asked him to help, and testified, “I did not want to do it. I had helped him [Ehud Olmert] with elections and debts, but I did not think it was right to ask me to help with family issues, especially when his brother already lost in the elections.”
He continued: “But Olmert said ‘please help,’” and later Shula Zaken followed up and eventually gave him “all of the necessary requirements for wiring money to Israel.”
Olmert’s attorney Roi Belcher tried to press Talansky on how all of this appeared to contradict his earlier version of events in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, he said that he did not remember ever giving any money to Olmert’s brother Yossi, while in 2010 he said that either Olmert had given him money to transfer as a middleman to Yossi or that he gave the money directly to Yossi.
He had even said earlier that Olmert would never have asked him to give money to his brother because “Olmert hated his brother.”
In contrast, in court on Sunday, Talansky said he was certain that he had paid Yossi the funds upon the request from Olmert.
Talansky tried to resolve the seemingly blatant contradiction by saying that when he was asked about it earlier by investigators, he either thought they were asking about if he had an established pattern of giving him money – like he said he had given Olmert.
In addition, Talansky said that even when he was presented with the documents specifically regarding the $30,000 transfer, he was surprised and it took him time to remember the events in full that had occurred six years earlier.
Talansky also had choice words for The Jerusalem Post.
Asked if he would like to speak after testifying, Talansky said absolutely not and said that the Post “destroys Israel, you’re a rag, you and your kippa.” The reporter had not introduced or named himself at the time, but was wearing a kippa.
Yet, in later unrelated testimony, Talansky listed the Post along with the Jewish Week, The Forward and The New York Times as the main four papers he reads. Curiously, he wears a kippa as well.
Belcher had a field day dissecting Talansky’s memory and seemingly contradictory answers, regarding whether he had loaned Yossi money and other factual issues. Possibly most shocking was that Talansky appeared to contradict what the state reported his testimony would be to the defense.
The witness was interviewed by the state last week and under law, the state fulfilled its obligation to inform the defense of his new statements.
According to Belcher, the state sent the defense a letter indicating that Talansky did not remember any specifics regarding the Yossi Olmert episode.
This appeared to contradict Talansky’s version of what he had told the state a week earlier.
The state did not dispute the contradiction and when Talansky looked over at the state in confusion, the state attorneys did not respond.