Morris Talansky at court
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Talansky: Zaken did not open envelopes
Key witness in corruption case against former Prime Minister Olmert questioned again, this time by former bureau chief and alleged accomplice's attorney; admits that original testimony implicating her may have been incorrect

American businessman Morris Talansky, who is the key witness in the "cash envelopes" case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, resumed his testimony at the Jerusalem District Court on Monday.


Olmert is suspected of illicitly receiving hundreds of thousand of dollars from Talansky during his tenure as mayor of Jerusalem, and later as industry, trade and labor minister.


Talansky recently returned to Israel from the US in order to complete his testimony in the case. The former prime minister's attorneys cross examined him on Sunday, and this time it was attorney Micha Patman's turn – Patman is representing Shula Zaken, Olmert's former bureau chief, who is a suspected accomplice in the case.


Patman claimed that his client was not involved in the transactions between the two: "As far as the loans go, Shula was not involved and Olmert was the one to do the asking (for money)… Shula never opened the envelopes."


Talansky answered by saying the counsel was correct.


Variety of versions

As for her access to the envelopes he had delivered to the former prime minister – especially one containing $72,000 – Patman was able to get Talansky to admit that despite confessing to the police that he gave her the envelope, he may have been led to that conclusion by his investigators. 


Once Patman was done, the State Prosecutor's attorneys began a redirect examination of Talansky. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador pushed for more detailed on Zaken's role: "She was a secretary, she never initiated fundraising. He (Olmert) always called me," he said.


Lador then attempted to prove Talansky's police deposition contradicted his court testimony, but the defense objected, citing Lador could not proceed with his line of questioning without having the court declare Talansky a "hostile witness."


The court overruled the projection, saying that Lador could continue with his questioning without the businessman being declared as such.


Amir Dan, Olmert's communications director, told Ynet that "as usual, Talansky is changing his version of the events to appease whoever it is that it questioning him."


The American businessman testified for six hours on Sunday. Olmert's attorneys claimed that the prosecution knew that he would not be a credible witness even before they asked the court for a pre-trial deposition order, which is considered an unusual legal maneuver.


To support the claim, the defense offered into evidence correspondence between Jerusalem District Prosecutor Eli Abarbanel and Talansky's lawyer Jacques Chen, dated back to May 2008, in which the former admits that "the witness may be concealing some details that could implicated him in the US."


Attorney Eli Zohar, for Olmert, said that Talansky's testimony "has turned out to be baseless. This testimony is tainted, since it is known that he has repeatedly contradicted himself, and all of the (prosecution's) attempts to wriggle around that are inappropriate."


Lador, however, told reporters: "I can’t believe you're falling for the canard produced by Olmert's publicists… the State Prosecutor's Office and the district prosecutor should be proud."


For full coverage of the Talansky case, click here


First published: 29.06.09, 11:13
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