Attorney General Menachem Mazuz informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday he is considering filing criminal charges against him, including fraud, breach of trust and receiving illicit perquisites – each carrying a three-year mandatory prison sentence. The charges pertain to the 'cash envelopes' investigation involving US businessman Morris Talansky.
Mazuz said the final decision on the matter will be made after a final hearing with Olmert or his lawyers, should they choose to have one.
The Attorney General's Office sent a similar notification to Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken.
"The prime minister's overall conduct demonstrated a methodic, systematic abuse of his public office and standing, which took place over a number of years, and was meant to derive financial benefits from Mr. Talansky," said the Justice Department's memorandum. Mazuz's memo made no mention of bribery charges.
The prosecution said Sunday that it had not included bribery in the materializing indictment because the charges would be difficult to prove in court. But a senior official from the State Prosecutors' Office said the charges were sufficient to prove to the public that Olmert had been fraudulent in his dealings while in office.
"This affair raises questions about bribery. This is a senior minister who took money from an American friend and in return wrote letters to other businessmen in his name. The public should decide, after the charges are read, if he shouldn't be placed on trial," the official told Ynet.
Mazuz's notification to Olmert details a slew of suspicions pertaining to the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars – in cash – from the Jewish-American philanthropist, dating back to 1993, when Olmert was the mayor of Jerusalem. The funds were managed by Olmert's confidant Attorney Uri Messer and were dubbed the "secret purse." Olmert is also suspected of using his influence in order to facilitate Talansky's business affairs in Israel, even though in some cases there was a clear conflict of interests.
The AG further claims that Olmert breached a set of government guidelines, set back in 1978 in order to ensure that ministers will maintain their integrity and avoid conflict of interests. Olmert, claimed Mazuz, deliberately deceived the State Comptroller's Office on a number of occasions.
Talansky is the key witness in the case. Currently staying in the US, Talansky was deposed prior to leaving Israel, several months ago. The Justice Ministry has based its decision to indict Olmert largely on Talansky's deposition; but he has yet to inform the State when he will return to Israel to resume his testimony.
Amir Dan, Olmert's media advisor, criticized Mazuz's decision.
"Despite the fact that it has been unequivocally proven that Talansky's testimony was false and that it is meaningless today, and despite the fact that the defense has not been supplied with its basic right to complete the cross examination for many months, the prosecution is not hindered from continuing to wave Talansky's false and contradictory preliminary testimonies as if what happened later before the eyes of the court and the public never occurred," Dan's statement read.
It added, "The prosecution is unable to allow itself to admit today that the unorthodox process of the preliminary testimony, which led to the resignation of Israel's prime minister, was wrong and erroneous and had no right to exist."
Law enforcement officials estimated that the police will recommend indicting Olmert over two additional affairs: The political appointments affair, in which Olmert is suspected of appointing a series of Likud Central Committee members to different positions in the Small Businesses Authority during his tenure as industry, trade and labor minister, and the Investment Center affair, in which he is suspected of securing benefits and grants worth tens of millions of dollars for the Silicate factory in Dimona, under the auspices of his ministry. The company was represented at the time by Messer, Olmert's friend and former law partner.
The officials said there was insufficient evidence to put him on trial over the Cremieux Street apartment affair, in which the PM is accused of receiving an illicit discount on the Jerusalem real estate.
On Friday Olmert was questioned by National Fraud Investigation Unit detectives for the 16th time.
The questioning session focused on the Cremieux Street affair.
In recent weeks, investigators have been focusing their inquiry mainly on the political appointments affair.
Law enforcement officials told Ynet that Friday's interrogation would probably be the prime minister's last.
The prime minister is suspected of fraud, breach of trust, false registration and tax evasion. Olmert's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, was informed by the Jerusalem District prosecutor that she would also be indicted in this affair.
The Rishon Tours affair relates to the period between 2002 and 2006, when Olmert was invited by non-profit organizations to take part in public events abroad on their behalf. According to the suspicions, the
trips were financed by more than one organization, and the remaining funds were used to upgrade Olmert's flights and fund his family members' private trips abroad on dozens of occasions.
In the Bank Leumi affair, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador decided to close the case at the end of 2008.
The Leumi case centered on suspicions that Olmert, while being the locum tenens for the finance minister in former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government, used his influence to make sure an Australian businessman, Frank Louie, won the bank's privatization tender.
After a lengthy investigation, the police recommended the case be closed.