Daily Israel Report

Olmert Faces Investigators for Eighth Session

Police investigators questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Thursday for the eighth time in connection with various corruption allegations.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 10/2/2008, 1:44 PM / Last Update: 10/2/2008, 3:24 PM

Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced investigators from the National Fraud Unit Thursday morning for the first time since handing in his resignation to President Shimon Peres ten days ago, following the Kadima primary elections.

 

Police officers questioned the prime minister for the eighth time at his official residence in Jerusalem in a two-hour session that began at around 10:00 a.m.

 

The post-holiday interrogation reportedly focused on the sale of his house on Jerusalem's tony Cremieux Street. Olmert is suspected of trading favors on red tape for a contractor on a building project in exchange for a reduced price on the purchase of his home in the capital.

 

Thursday's session also allegedly covered questions about a separate case known as the Investment Center scandal. The prime minister is suspected of securing millions of dollars in funding for the silicate factory in Dimona during his tenure as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor; the company was represented by Olmert's close associate and law partner, Uri Messer, at the time.

 

Investigators also reportedly tried to question the prime minister once more about the Rishon Tours case, another scandal in which he is suspected of illicitly receiving funds, but he refused to cooperate without first consulting his attorneys.

 

Olmert is alleged to have sent duplicate bills for the same trip to different organizations around the country and abroad, through the Rishon Tours travel agency. The company allegedly produced separate receipts for the same expenses for each funding source; the money it is suspected that the prime minister gained in this manner was allegedly deposited into a special account established by the company in his name, which was then used to fund dozens of private trips for himself and his family.

 

Police have said they believe they have enough evidence to recommend an indictment.

 

Olmert resigned after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni replaced him as leader of his Kadima party in a primary election last month. Mounting evidence of financial wrongdoing and corruption probes plus pressure from the coalition combined to persuade the prime minister this past summer that it was time to agree to step down.

 

The final straw was the probe into allegations that he received at least $150,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes from American businessman Moshe (Morris) Talansky, a well-known philanthropist who spent decades raising money for Israel.