Former Israeli PM Acquitted; Wants Right-Wing US Jews Probed
Ehud Olmert found guilty on one of three charges
The associates of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday that right-wing American Jews should be investigated for their role in his 2008 impeachment, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The former PM was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust, false entries in corporate documents and acquisition through fraudulent means in cases popularly known as the Rishon Tours double-billing affair, the Talansky affair and the Investments Centre affair.
The proceedings involved 152 court sessions over two years, producing 4,000 pages of testimony.
But on Tuesday, Olmert was found not guilty on the majority of the corruption charges he was facing as the Jerusalem District Court exonerated the former Israeli leader in a 700-page ruling.
“We are not looking for conspiracy theories but we want answers to facts,” said a source close to Olmert. “Certain people became part of the political game and brought about investigations, which led to his resignation. You have to ask yourself whether these things should be investigated.”
Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in the Investment Center case, considered the least serious of the charges he faced, and will be sentenced in September, according to court documents.
The case dealt with a conflict of interest, in which Olmert gave favorable treatment to companies run by a former business partner in an investment deal during his time in office as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour. Olmert was alleged to have influenced some decisions made by his ministry in their favour when he held the position between 2003 and 2006.
Olmert’s lawyer, Eli Zohar, said he would not appeal the conviction, which makes Olmert the first prime minister in Israel to be convicted of breach of public trust. It is possible that he will be jailed for the conviction.
“I would like to remind you all that the court said that there was procedural impropriety in this case – not fraud and not corruption,” said the former PM outside the court. “As for the ramifications of this indictment – there are lessons to be learned here, and personal responsibility to be assumed by some. I leave that up to them.”
The other two allegations Olmert faced would have each carried a three-year mandatory prison sentence had he been convicted.
But the panel of three judges ruled unanimously that the evidence provided did not prove beyond doubt that Olmert had acted with criminal intent.
The testimony of Morris Talansky, an American businessman who told a court in May 2008 that he had given about $150,000 to Olmert over 13 years, mostly in cash stuffed into envelopes, was instrumental in the former Kadima leader’s downfall.
Talansky claimed he had transferred the money to Olmert for his election campaigns and personal expenses, an allegation Olmert repeatedly denied.
Talansky testified that he had sent $25,000 to Olmert between 1992, when he first ran for mayor of Jerusalem, and late 2005, meant for a vacation in Italy and almost $5,000 to cover his bill at a hotel in Washington, D.C. because Olmert’s own credit card was “maxed out.”
Talansky noted that some of the money was meant as a lone but he was never repaid.
Following his acquittal, Olmert maintained his innocence.
“There were no envelopes of money and there are no envelopes of money,” he said. “It never happened.”
Olmert was also cleared of an allegation that while mayor of Jerusalem and later in the cabinet, he billed multiple state and charitable agencies for identical travel expenses and used the extra money for private family trips.
“After over four years this case has finally come to its end. Four years ago, the media was riddled with reports of 'cash envelopes' and illicit money. Well, today the court found that there was no such thing,” Olmert told reporters outside the court.
The ruling “addresses the core of the indictment filed against me – and the court found me not guilty. I never defrauded anyone, not one institution or charity. There was no corruption… I do not intend to thank the court for this ruling. This was not a personal matter of ‘good decision versus bad decision.’ The court ruled according to the evidence, after four years and hundreds of meetings and sifting through things. I do however, want to thank the court for maintaining the dignity of the proceedings,” he stated.
Olmert quoted former Prime Minister Menachem Begin who in the 1970s declared, “There are judges in Jerusalem.”