Took bribes? Olmert
Photo: AP

Olmert questioned for 5th time on corrupiton affairs

Fraud unit investigators interrogate PM on Talansky, Cremieux Street affairs and double claims for travel expenses he allegedly made as trade minister

Investigators of the police's National Fraud Unit questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under caution for the fifth time on Friday at his official residence in Jerusalem. 


The latest round of questioning, which began at 10 am, lasted a little over three hours after Olmert agreed to extend it.  


Police are investigating allegations that the embattled leader took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky and made double claims for travel expenses while he served as trade minister and mayor of Jerusalem.


The investigators, headed by Brigadier-General Shlomi Ayalon, were also expected to question the PM over the Cremieux Street affair and other corruption affairs he was allegedly involved in.


Following the interrogation session the investigators were expected to brief Commander Yohanan Danino, head of the Investigations and Intelligence Unit, and Major General Yoav Segalovich, head of Lahav 433, known as "the Israeli FBI."


The High Court of Justice on Monday quashed a petition filed by reporter Yoav Yitzhak, in which he asked the court to order Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to instruct the government to immediately suspend Olmert from office, pending the results of the criminal investigations against him.  Yitzhak also asked the court to order Olmert to present the police with his personal journals.


The court threw out the petition, but noted that Mazuz had the judicial authority to force the prime minister into suspension; and should the case against him drag on, such a move would have to be considered.


'Lacks mandate to commit Israel to any deals'

As for the ongoing delays in the police investigation against Olmert, the court noted that "both the police and the Attorney General's Office must find a way to reconcile their need to interview the prime minister, with the understandable scheduling difficulties deriving from his position. The prime minister, on his part, must find a way to cooperate with the police."


On Thursday it was reported that Eldad Rotman, who served as Olmert's aide in the trade ministry, was detained and later placed under house arrest. Rotman was reportedly questioned regarding suspicions that Olmert illegally appointed Likud cronies to ministerial posts while serving as trade minister.


Rotman was scheduled to be released from house arrest following Olmert's questioning.


Olmert announced on July 30 he would resign after Kadima chose a new leader, but vowed to pursue peace talks with the Palestinians and Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria until his last day in office.


Top advisers said Olmert could stay in office for months as caretaker premier, long enough to continue the peace talks, but rival politicians have said he lacks the mandate to commit Israel to any deals.


Four Kadima ministers have launched campaigns to replace Olmert, with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni leading the pack and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense chief, close behind her.


Olmert has faced numerous investigations into his financial affairs from his 10-year stint as mayor of Jerusalem, ending in 2003, and then as a cabinet minister until he succeeded the ailing Ariel Sharon as prime minister in early 2006.


Reuters contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 08.08.08, 09:47
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