The police will check whether there are criminal aspects in the sale of the controlling shares of Bank Leumi, an affair in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
is allegedly involved.
At the end of a discussion at the office of State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, it was decided that the police would carry out a number of actions as part of an initial inquiry, in order to check whether there is sufficient evidential basis to launch a criminal investigation.
The meaning of the inquiry is that the State Prosecutor's Office is still missing several details in order to rule whether a general investigation against a prime minister who is still in office should be launched.
The inquiry includes questionings and interviews, and when it is completed the State Prosecutor's Office will decide whether to launch a criminal investigation. Officials at the State Prosecutor's Office stressed, however, that this procedure was still not a criminal investigation.
Following the instruction, the material was transferred Sunday evening to the police's national fraud unit. If the police should find suspicions that the prime minister allegedly committed criminal offenses, the police will present the evidence to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.
The attorney general will be the one to decide if a criminal investigation should be launched, after he examines the alleged suspicions and evidence.
Saturday evening reports claimed that Ministry of Finance Accountant General Yaron Zelicha, testified against Olmert in the case. Zelicha was in charge of the tender in question and is considered a key witness. The state comptroller's officer confirmed the publication.
Representatives from the comptroller's office said that "One of the vital testimonies we collected regarding the inquiry into the sale of Bank Leumi six months ago was of Accountant General Dr. Yaron Zelicha. No more information can be released at this time. The state comptroller has said all he has to say in his petition to the Attorney General regarding the matter."
Last week media reports claimed that Olmert, along with additional parties, allegedly committed criminal bribery offenses during the sale of the majority shares in Bank Leumi in 2005. The allegations claim that Olmert, who was Minister of Finance at the time, apparently broke the law for two of his friends – Daniel Abrams and Frank Louie – with whom he conducted, directly and indirectly, a relationship which allegedly involved bribe.
State Comptroller Justice Micha Lindenstrauss investigated the case and transferred his findings to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Lindenstrauss is expected to officially recommend that Mazuz open a criminal investigation against Olmert this week.
Lindenstrauss sent a telegram to Mazuz last week, saying that he is leaving the case to Mazuz, implicating that he believes that there exists a suspicion that Olmert was criminally involved in the sale of Bank Leumi's majority shares.
The comptroller's office claims that grave evidence has been collected against Olmert, which allegedly show a clear conflict of interests while working on the details of the tender for the bank's acquisition. Lindenstrauss' recommendation will obligate the attorney general to decide whether or not to open an investigation into the matter within six months, though the goal is for the decision to be made as soon as possible.
Olmert's associates expressed their wonder over the haste to return the case to the Attorney General with a criminal recommendation.
"Any honest man who was to look over the allegations would conclude that this time, as before, it is a case of blood libel," Olmert's office responded to the comptroller's recommendation.
Efrat Weiss contributed to the report