Israeli police recommend indicting Olmert for corruption

Israel Materials 7 September 2008 22:25 (UTC +04:00)
Israeli police recommend indicting Olmert for corruption

Israeli police recommended on Sunday evening to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges, including bribery.

Olmert's lawyers countered that the recommendation had "no meaning" and they were waiting for the final decision by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz.

Police officials met for five hours earlier in the day to review evidence against Olmert and to decide whether to make the recommendation to Mazuz.

In addition to the most severe charge of bribery, police said they had gathered enough evidence to support charges of fraud, breach of trust and other illegal acts allegedly committed by Olmert.

According to the Yediot Ahronot daily, a draft indictment will only be ready after the upcoming Jewish holiday season, which ends in late October, and a final decision on whether to go ahead and charge Olmert will be made only after the premier is given a chance to present his version of events.

Sunday's recommendation comes after detectives from the national fraud squad spent months investigating the premier, including questioning him seven times, and focused on three of the six affairs in which he is alleged to be implicated.

Olmert is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of it in envelopes full of cash, from US-Jewish fundraiser Morris Talansky.

He is also suspected of double, even triple, billing sponsors for overseas visits, and using the extra money to pay for trips for his family.

A third case against the premier, one still being investigated by police, is that when serving as trade and industry minister before he became premier, he pushed for favourable responses to be given to grant applications submitted to the ministry's investment centre by clients of his former law partner.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing on his part, but the investigations took their toll on his already-low popularity, and at the end of July he announced he would not contest the upcoming leadership primary of his ruling Kadima party, and would resign the premiership once the new party leader managed to form a government.

At the same time, associates of the premier engaged in a public spat with the police and the state prosecutors' office over the conduct of the investigations.

A "close aide" to the premier was quoted in Yediot as saying that the police recommendation "is a foregone script, because had the leading police officials not recommended indicting, they would have had to tender their resignations."

Olmert's aides and lawyers have repeatedly pointed out that police had also recommended indicting previous prime ministers, including Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, but in each case their recommendation was not followed up, dpa reported.