Police: Investment Center case against Olmert solid
National Fraud Unit says has sufficient evidence to prosecute prime minister for fraud, breach of trust in case of his involvement with the Investments Center, as industry and trade minister. 'Attempt to turn every personal acquaintance into a crime unreasonable,' says aide
The National Fraud Unit said Thursday that it has finished its investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's alleged improper involvement with the Israel Investments Center, which took place during his tenure as industry and trade minister.
The police said that there was enough evidence in the case to file charges of fraud and breach of trust by a public official against Olmert. The final decision on the matter lies with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the State Prosecutor's Office.
The Israel Investments Center case dates back to 1998, when a group of American businessmen looked into building a large-scale, joint Israeli-Jordanian recreational project stretching across 1,235 acres between Eilat and Aqaba.
The joint venture did not materialize and in 2002, the group recommended that the Israeli government proceed with it on its own. The project was to be managed by the Israel Investments Center, headed by Olmert's confidant Attorney Uri Messer.
According to a State Comptroller's Office investigation, Messer asked Olmert – in his capacity as industry and trade minister – to grant the center and its affiliates various grants.
The comptroller's report also detailed a number of occasions in which the prime minister interfered directly in the center's affairs, stating that not only did Olmert comply despite a clear conflict of interest, he also attended several meetings meant to advance the center's bid, exerting his direct ministerial influence in favor of Messer and his partners.
The police and the State Prosecutor's Office have already recommended Olmert be indicted in two other cases pending against him – the Rishon Tours' double-billing affair and the Talansky Affair. Both indictments are now pending a judiciary hearing.
Olmert's communications director, Amir Dan, offered the following comment: "During his tenure as industry and trade minister, Olmert conducted himself in the manner expected of any minister in the government who cares about what is best of the Negev area.
"The attempt to turn every personal acquaintance into a criminal offence is unreasonable. Olmert had only one goal – to assist in creating hundreds of jobs and to fight the bureaucracy which has held back the region's development for years."
The prime minister, added Dan, "Was honored by the Israeli industry just a week ago for the hundreds of decision he has made, that have advanced the sector and created jobs. Flooding the public's (mind) with these decisions now is not accidental and is meant to distract it from the weakness of the claims," he concluded.