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Olmert Faces Third Indictment

Attorney General tells ex-PM Olmert another indictment is on the way. Olmert’s score thus far: 3 indictments, 2 closed cases, 1 still pending.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/5/2009, 3:29 PM

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has informed ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he “is considering” indicting him on a third set of charges. This is widely understood to mean that a criminal indictment-and-trial is on the way.  The Olmert score thus far: Three indictments, two closed cases, and one (involving suspicions of political appointments) still pending. 

The latest indictment against Olmert, as the others (see below), is still contingent upon a special hearing to be granted Olmert, if he wishes. Mazuz is considering uniting the three indictments into one charge sheet.

The latest indictment deals with what has become known as the Investment Center case, and deals with Olmert’s activities as a Cabinet minister – mostly in the Ministry of Industry and Trade – between the years 2003 and 2006.  He is suspected of having acted with a conflict of interest and making decisions advancing the interests of clients of his good friend, former law partner, and personal attorney Uri Messer.

For instance, Olmert allegedly made a decision to raise the import tariffs on certain oils, thus benefiting a Messer client who manufactures oil in Israel. The decision was made just a month after a professional ministry decision had been made to lower the tariffs. 

Other cases in which Olmert allegedly intervened to help Messer’s clients involve the Siliket Project, the Nevatim Project, and Bezeq. 

Olmert stands to be indicted on two other cases as well: The Talansky cash envelopes case, in which he is suspected of having received tens of thousands of unreported dollars from an American businessman, and RishonTours, in which Olmert is suspected of double-billing – taking money from more than one philanthropic organization to pay for the same trips to the United States, and using the balance to pay for flights of his wife and daughter.

Olmert now stands accused of helping a client company of Messer’s by shortening the period required to receive its “approved business” status, lowering the required deposit from $15 million to $5 million, participating in the decision to grant it a discount on land prices, and more.

The charge sheet states that Olmert’s behavior in general “violated the law, norms and rules that obligate a minister and a public servant… His actions constitute a grave blow to the purity of behavior of public servants, the public trust in the government, and the proper functioning of public administration…  He is ostensibly guilty of breach of trust and fraud…”

What makes Olmert’s behavior even more grave, Mazuz writes, are factors such as: The high positions he held, the severity of the conflict of interest, the fact that it was not a one-time matter, the concealment of the breadth of his relationship and ties with Messer, and the fact that they were carried out at the same time as his activities in the Talansky issue, in which Messer was also heavily involved.

Amir Dan, Olmert’s press spokesman, said, “Olmert is proud of all the decisions he made to advance industry and employment in the Negev and around the country, and he would have made the same decisions today. This case will end like the Cremeiux and Bank Leumi cases against Olmert, which were opened with great fanfare but were closed very quietly.”