Olmert Asks Court to Postpone Talansky Investigation

Prosecutors want additional session with American millionaire; lawyers for PM say pre-trial deposition not good for due process

Avi Tuchmayer ,

Businessman Morris Talansky
Businessman Morris Talansky
Israel News Photo: Flash90

Attorneys for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert filed suit against the State Prosecutor's Office Monday in an attempt to prevent police from taking a pre-trial deposition from American businessman Morris Talansky.

Police investigators have summoned Talansky for a third round of questioning Sunday. He has been detained in Israel since the current scandal broke earlier this month because prosecutors fear he would not return to Israel for further questioning if allowed to leave the country. Talansky denies this, and claims he is planning to return to Israel in June for a grandson's wedding.

Attorney's for Olmert and former bureau chief Shula Zaken say a pre-trial deposition would unfairly harm their client's ability to receive a fair trial should an indictment be issued.

Unusual Step

Attorney Eli Zohar noted that it is unusual for a prime minister to challenge the state prosecutor in court, but said that the current situation is far from ordinary.

"The prime minister should not get special privileges," he told the court, "but it is inconceivable that he should be stripped of all his rights as an ordinary citizen undergoing investigation. I feel it would have been better not to have to point this out. There is no precedent, urgency or proof to support the prosecution's position that they are worried that a future investigation of Talnasky will prove to be impossible. Permitting (police to take an early) deposition represents a serious change in criminal law proceedings."Talansky's legal advisors said they would move to lift the travel ban on their client on Monday, May 26. The court is expected to rule on Olmert's request to block the pre-trial deposition today.

From Scandal to Scandal

Since taking office as prime minister following Ariel Sharon's massive stroke in January, 2006, police investigators have investigated corruption charges surrounding Ehud Olmert at least four times. The scandals include:

  • Bank Leumi Privatization Scandal
      Olmert is suspected of using his influence as Finance Minister to help two friends, Daniel Abrams and Frank Lowy, purchase shares in the bank at below-market prices. Investigation closed in November, 2007.
  • Purchase Of Jerusalem Apartment
     Olmert received a $300,000 discount to purchase a luxury apartment on Cremuiux Street, in Jerusalem's posh German Colony neighborhood. Police suspect that the discount was provided by project developer Alumot in exchange for Olmert's help in expediting building permits at city hall.  Attorney General Menachem Mazuz says the investigation is in it's "final stages."
  • Investment Center Case
     State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss recommended that Olmert be indicted for improper dealings with longtime friend, business partner and current lawyer Uri Messer during his tenure as Minister of Industry and Trade. Messer represented an entrepreneur who requested economic benefits via the Investment Center at the Ministry of Trade, but Lindenstrauss ruled that it was a conflict of interest.
  • Illegal appointments in Small Businesses Authority

In October, 2007 Attorney General Mazuz orded police to open two separate criminal investigations against Olmert regarding illegal appointments in the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority. An additional case involves alleged political appointments while Olmert was Trade Minister in the Small Business Administration. Olmert is suspected of promoting several unqualified Likud Central Committee members to important positions in various enterprises for political gain.

  • Talansky Affair
     Olmert is suspected of taking bribes while serving as Mayor of Jerusalem and Ministry of Industry and Trade. Investigation ongoing.
  • $ 300,000 Affair
    Hebrew-language website NRG reported in mid-May that police suspect Olmert of accepting an unauthorized $300,000 donation when he was Minister of Trade. NRG editor Yoav Yitzchak said police are focusing their criminal investigation on new suspicions that Olmert failed to report the donations during the years 2002-2005, when he served as Minister of Industry and Trade under Ariel Sharon