Daily Israel Report

Police: We May Indict Olmert by Late August

Prosecution, police announced a new investigation against the PM Friday, on suspicions he tricked charities into paying for family flights.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/12/2008, 10:56 PM

The State Prosecution and police announced Friday they have been investigating new charges against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the past month. According to Channel 2, police may combine the new charges with those involving businessman Morris Talansky and the "cash envelopes," and a decision to indict Olmert may be reached by late August.

The new case against Olmert involves suspicions that he used fraudulent means to trick organizations including Yad Vashem, Akim (for disabled children), Aleh (for blind students), the Association for the Welfare of Soldiers (Agudah Lema'an Hachayal) and the Wiesenthal Center into paying money that was supposedly meant for his fundraising flights abroad but actually went into a secret fund that paid for his family's private trips.

Double dipping
The police leaks to the media accuse Olmert of “double” and even “triple-dipping”: i.e., demanding and receiving payment for the same trips abroad from several organizations, although they were funded by the government. According to these leaks, Olmert stole over $100,000 in this way when he was Mayor of Jerusalem and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. According to the allegations, Olmert used the services of a tour company called "Rishon Tours," which booked his flights for him, to send invoices to the organizations. The extra money that accumulated was put in a special account for O
The Olmert camp claimed that multiple billing of nonprofit groups by donation raisers like Olmert was common practice, because one never knew which group would wind up paying.
lmert's use and was used to pay for private trips by Olmert's family members.

At issue are trips Olmert took between 1998 and 2005. Police claimed that they have a great deal of evidence and testimony, including that of Rishon Tours' owner, which corroborates the suspicions.

"Attempted coup"
However, Olmert's lawyers, media advisers and confidantes denied over the weekend there was any wrongdoing in the case which the media has dubbed "Olmert Tours." They accused interested parties of trying to carry out "a coup" against the Prime Minister by leveling trumped up charges against him.

The Olmert camp claimed that multiple billing of nonprofit groups by donation raisers like Olmert was common practice, because one never knew which group would wind up paying and which would not. Asked why the extra money raised was not returned to the donors, an Olmert lawyer told Channel 2 that this "would have to be looked into." Olmert confidantes said the family trips which the police referred to were paid for through "frequent flyer" miles Olmert accumulated and not from the donation funds.

"Olmert didn't take a Shekel"
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Chairman Avner Shalev told reporters Saturday that he was "surprised" by the allegations. He said that about half of Yad Vashem's current budget was from donations and that "the Prime Minister always willingly agreed to help raise donations." Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said that on the occasions in which the Prime Minister was invited by Yad Vashem organizations abroad they paid him for expenses, flights and hotel fees, as is usual.

Rachael Risby-Raz, who served as Olmert's travel coordinator during his tenure as industry an
"In my country you can butcher a man in the town square without trial or presumption of innocence - and everyone leans back to enjoy the show."
d trade minister, and who now serves as his adviser on Diaspora, was mentioned as a key witness in the "Olmert Tours" allegations. However, Risby-Raz issued a statement Saturday night defending Olmert: "The prime minister is not a thief and not a fraud," she stated, adding that she was "pained by the lies that appear in the media on a daily basis." Olmert, she said, "didn't take a shekel for himself and didn't use the public's money for his family's needs."

"Regretfully, she said, "unlike other sources who leak ceaselessly, I cannot give details on the investigation, protect the prime minister and my good name or tell the truth - for fear that I would be accused of disrupting the investigation."

"I am saddened by the fact that in my country what a person says in the interrogation room appears in the newspapers the next day, and no one thinks that's wrong," she added. "I am saddened by the fact that in my country you can butcher a man in the town square without trial or presumption of innocence - and everyone leans back to enjoy the show."