Morris Talansky's deposition refuted all of the bribery allegations against Ehud Olmert, said an attorney representing the prime minister Tuesday evening following a nine-hour hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, during which the American financier testified to giving the Israeli leader cash-stuffed envelopes over a 15-year period, including personal loans that were never repaid.
Talansky said he handed over sums, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 at a time, in Israel or in New York hotel suites during visits Olmert made to the US before becoming prime minister.
"I asked him why I couldn't write a check and he said it's because of the way the money is channeled," Talansky told the court.
According to Olmert's attorney, Roi Belcher, "Mr. Talansky made it abundantly clear that he received nothing in return (for the cash he transferred to Olmert) and that he did what he did because he believed in Olmert's method. He thought Olmert was worthy of being elected mayor of Jerusalem and eventually head Israel's government. He said he never received anything in return."
Belcher continued to say that "we are not disputing many of Talansky's claims – when someone raises funds, he collects money. After he collects the money he hands it over in envelopes to the candidate who met him both in the US and Israel. He thanks the candidate for his efforts and sometimes transfers the money to (the candidate's staff) in Israel.
"When the American president travels on Air Force One, which has a staff of 200 people, it seems only natural and reasonable. But when the mayor of Jerusalem – God forbid – stays overnight at a suite or flies first class – this is inexcusable," the attorney said.
"Flying first class or staying in a hotel suite may be acts that are frowned upon by the public, but legally speaking – based on what Talansky said – no laws were broken."
Talansky is expected to return to Israel in July for a cross examination by Olmert's legal team.
Reuters contributed to the report