Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Police Say Indict Olmert's Aides

Hana Levi Julian

Police investigators from the National Fraud Unit recommended on Monday morning that the Attorney General indict attorney Uri Messer and former Olmert bureau chief Shula Zaken, in addition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in several of the corruption cases involving the prime minister.
Messer, a long-time friend, former law partner and attorney for Olmert, is suspected of helping the prime minister receive bribes in cash-stuffed envelopes in a case which has been dubbed the 'Talansky affair'.

Police provided the state prosecution with a detailed account of how Messer managed the funds given to Olmert by American businessman and philanthropist Moshe (Morris) Talansky, most of which came in the form of cash-stuffed envelopes.

The flow of information stopped abruptly approximately three months ago when Messer suddenly stopped cooperating with police, angry about leaks to the media. His attorney, Tzvi Agmon, said he respected the investigators and their efforts but denied the allegations, saying "they sometimes err, as in this case," according to Voice of Israel government radio.

Zaken's attorney, Micha Fetman, also denied any guilt on the part of his client, saying there was no evidence to support any charges that might be filed. However, the attorney did not rule out a possibility that Zaken might consider turning state's witness in exchange for a plea bargain deal.

In addition, they recommended that Zaken be charged for her part in helping Olmert receive the bribes and transferring the money back and forth from the vault and from Messer. Charges against her would include conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, breach of public trust and money-laundering.

Police also recommended Messer be indicted in connection with the Rishon Tours affair, in which Olmert is suspected of double-billing the travel agency for private trips for his family. Investigators allege that the prime minister had double-billed charities and at least one government ministry for airline flights and other travel expenses, using false receipts to pay for private family travel expenses.

The organizations allegedly defrauded by the prime minister included:

Soldiers' Welfare Association

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum

National Association for the Rehabilitation of the Mentally Handicapped in Israel

Aleh (organization which cares for disabled children in Israel)

Investigators included Zaken in recommendations for indictment in the Rishon Tours affairs as well, saying she should also be charged for her role in the fraudulent receipt of goods under aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.

A third investigation into a case known as the "Investment Center allegations" is not yet complete. Zaken and Messer have both been implicated, said police, but recommendations for charges against them in this case have not yet been submitted. Olmert is suspected of having invested large state investment funds with a company represented by Messer.

The police findings are to be transferred to the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office. Eli Abarbanel, district attorney for criminal affairs, is expected to review the material and submit his recommendation as to whether to indict the prime minister, and/or attorney Messer, to State's Attorney Moshe Lador.

Lador will submit his final recommendation to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz as to whether or not to indict Olmert, Messer and/or Zaken. The final decision on all three will be made by Mazuz.


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