Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's trial entered its next phase on Thursday, as the prosecution began the cross examination on the various corruption allegations pending against him.
Olmert was asked about the alleged "secret safe" held for him by Attorney Uri Messer. The State believes Messer gave Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken $150,000, but Olmert said Zaken "never told me about any money she got from Messer."
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The judges asked how was it possible that $150,000 were "misplaced," to which he replied: "I've very curious about that, too. But I could never ask Shula or Messer about it."
When Justice Moshe Sobol insisted on a "better answer," Olmert said that the money pertained to "a private debt that had to do with Rishon Tours… once I took office as prime minister, I knew I couldn't use that money."
When asked about his relations with American businessman Morris Talansky, the key witness in the "cash envelops" case, Olmert dismissed the allegations in the case more, saying "I deny he ever gave me any money and I'll deny that over and over again."
He also reiterated his claim that there was never any "shady dealing" between him and Talansky: "This is all part of the 'cash envelop' fantasy… there was never any conspiracy. Everything was on the up-and-up."
Olmert also elaborated on his long relationship with Zaken, describing her as his "right hand person" throughout his political career. "She was the junction through whom everything flowed… She took care of many things by herself. She was definitely more than just a secretary."
Olmert said that he "felt as if I was under constant attack, that I had to defend myself, so I chose a different path… When I saw Shula's statements to the police I remembered it was true, I would sometimes tell the (secretaries) to push the mute button if they remained on the line – that's part of the normal work method in the office, it's meant to save time."
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