An indictment was filed Thursday against Rachael Risby-Raz, who served as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's travel coordinator, for her suspected involvement in the Rishon Tours double-billing scandal.
The affair centers on suspicions that while Olmert
was Industry, Trade and Labor minister, he double billed trips abroad to Jewish institutions, pocketing the difference or financing trips for relatives.
This is the first indictment to be filed in the Rishon Tours affair. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has also informed
the former prime minister of his plans to file charges against him in the case.
According to the indictment, the activity of Olmert and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken, with the help of Risby-Raz, yielded extra funds in the amount of $92,164.
"Mr. Olmert, Ms. Zaken and the defendant carried all this out in ways that are against the norms and the rules a minister and a public servant must abide by, through fraud and breach of trust," the indictment read.
The indictment detailed 15 different trips Olmert, Zaken and Risby-Raz fraudulently presented to various donor organizations and the State, causing them to pay extra expenses for the above travels.
Organizations mentioned in the indictment include the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Mentally Handicapped in Israel, the Bonds organization, Yad Vashem, the March of the Living, the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the World Jewish Congress.
During her hearing, Risby-Raz argued that she shouldn't be charged, stating that she was discriminated against during the investigation. The prosecution rejected her claims and said, "There is sufficient evidence to prosecute her and it is a matter of public interest."
Risby-Raz's attorney Gadi Tal said he hadn't yet studied the indictment, but that "we trust the court will view the big picture from its different aspects and rule accordingly."
Olmert's media advisor said in response to the indictment, "The conduct of the State Prosecutor's Office in the past few days proves that it is under a lot of pressure in terms of the cases against Olmert.
"The State Prosecutor's Office is firing in all directions in an attempt to terrorize the women who are naturally slated to serve as Olmert's defense witnesses. This shows that the State Prosecutor's Office is losing its senses.
"Moreover, filing the indictment now, before Olmert's hearing, is not by chance and raises heavy doubts over the willingness of the State Prosecutor's Office to hold a real hearing."
The former prime minister's aides expressed their surprise over the fact that the indictment was filed before Olmert's hearing, which is scheduled to take place in about a month.
"How can they run and file an indictment without having the full picture?" one of the associates told Ynet. "What if the lawyers manage to convince Mazuz not to file charges against Olmert, and then the indictment against Risby-Raz won't be filed as well? It seems that the State Prosecutor's Office doesn’t care about the truth. This raises heavy doubts over its performance."