Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced Sunday night he is considering indictment proceedings against outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for accepting more than $150,000 in cash from American businessman Morris Talansky. Other favors and covering campaign costs amounted to an additional $300,000. Mazuz said his final decision on whether to file charges for breach of public trust and fraud will be made after a preliminary hearing.
Olmert’s media advisor Amir Dan, responding to Mazuz’s announcement, charged that “it is has been clearly proven that Talansky’s testimony was false and is insignificant.”
Talansky testified last year that he had transferred the cash in envelopes to Olmert - at his request - over the past 15 years. The businessman is not suspected of having tried to bribe Olmert. He told police, “I had a very close relationship with him, but I wish to add at this time at the relationship of 15 years was purely of admiration. I never expected anything personally. I never had any personal benefits from this relationship whatsoever.”
Last month, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador rejected a request by Talansky that he testify again in closed court proceedings. However, Lador agreed to consider holding some of the hearings in secret and authorize a partial gag order.
Talansky reportedly will return to Israel in the next few weeks to testify, and Mazuz’s dramatic announcement Sunday night may be connected with his next trip.
Talansky told investigators last year that Olmert had asked him in 1993 for contributions to his Jerusalem mayoral campaign. The cash was transferred in envelopes, according to the testimony, often through Olmert’s personal bureau director Shula Zaken.
News 1 reported Saturday night that although she has retained her right to remain silent in the Talansky affair as well as other probes against Olmert, Zaken incriminated Olmert in the probe of his purchase of a home on Cremieux Street in the Germany Colony neighborhood in Jerusalem.
She said that she acted on his instructions to pressure municipal officials to allow renovations of the building despite its being zoned as a preserved property, prohibiting external construction.
Olmert allegedly received a $330,000 reduction in the price of the home in exchange for his efforts. He also may stand trial for an alleged double-billing scheme through RishonTours.