Police: Indict Olmert on corruption charges
After months of investigations and political turmoil – police recommend charging prime minister with fraud, bribery offenses related to Rishontours, Talansky affairs. Olmert's attorneys belittle announcement as 'meaningless,' say will wait for attorney general's decision
Some 18 months after the state comptroller determined there was sufficient evidence to launch a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's dealings, police have officially submitted their recommendation to prosecute him over two of the affairs.
After spending many long hours deliberating the matter, police issued a formal announcement on Sunday evening in which they recommended the state indict Olmert over the 'Rishontours' and Morris Talansky cash affairs.
Charges related to the Talansky affair - in which Olmert is suspected of received illicit funds from American businessman Morris Talansky - police have asserted there is sufficient evidence to indict the prime minister on accepting bribes, fraud, breach of trust by a public servant and several offenses pertaining to money laundering.
Charges related to the 'Rishontours' (or 'Olmertours') affair - Olmert is accused of double and triple-billing trips abroad to Jewish institutions, pocketing the difference or financing trips for relatives – police have asserted there is sufficient evidence to indict the prime minister on fraud, breach of trust and additional offenses. The tax-related aspects of the case will be dealt with separately.
Regarding the Investment Center affair police have yet to put forward a final recommendation, saying further investigation is required.
Commander Yohanan Danino, head of the police's Investigations and Intelligence Unit, along with Major-General Yoav Segalovich, head of Lahav 433, National Fraud Unit Brigadier-General Shlomi Ayalon and their teams, had held consecutive sessions on the recommendation question since last Thursday.
Police further determined that there is sufficient evidence to indict Olmert's bureau chief Shula Zaken on charges of aiding and abetting bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering in the Talansky affair. Zaken is also implicated in aiding and abetting fraud and breach of trust in the Rishontours affair.
The police statement notes that Olmert was questioned six times in relation to these cases, and denied the offenses attributed to him. However, he was unable to refute the allegations.
PM's legal team: 'This is meaningless'
The police recommendation would have only limited effect. The decision about whether to indict Olmert rests with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. In the past, Mazuz and his predecessors have turned down police recommendations to indict Israeli leaders several times.
Olmert's attorneys responded to the police's recommendation and said that the decision was "meaningless."
"The only person with the authority to indict the prime minister is the attorney general. ''We will wait patiently for the decision of the attorney general,'' the statement said. ''Unlike the police, he is aware of the heavy responsibility he holds.''
In July Olmert announced he would resign immediately after his Kadima party elects a new chairman to succeed him.
It is unclear if the prime minister's decision to step down later this month will affect the ongoing peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said of the police recommendation: "This is an internal Israeli matter, but we hope that the internal complexities will not lead to more settlements and incursions."
The Associated Press contributed to this report