Former PM Olmert indicted
Olmert to face multiple corruption charges including fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, receiving illicit benefits and tax evasion. Indictment of former premier a first of its kind; unifies Talansky, Rishontours, Investment Center cases. Defense team: No evidence of wrongdoing
The indictment includes charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion, as well as a charge of fraudulently obtaining benefits to which the State attributes aggravated circumstances.
The indictment spans three of the scandals the former prime minister was entangled in: The Talansky case, the Rishontours double billing case and the Investment Center case. The indictment does not include bribery charges, despite police recommendations in the matter.
The State Prosecutor's Office has also filed charges against Shula Zaken, Olmert's former bureau chief, for her involvement in the Talansky and Rishontours cases.
Zaken will face charges of falsifying corporate records, fraudulently obtaining benefits, fraud and breach of trust, as well as illegal wiretapping.
Uri Messer, a former confidant and business partner of Olmert's involved in the Investment Center case, was not indicted and is expected to be a witness for the prosecution.
Multiple corruption charges. Olmert (Archives: Reuters)
'No evidence indicating any wrongdoing'
Olmert's legal team waived the former premier's right to a judiciary hearing prior to a decision on an indictment, citing that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz did not intend to conduct an "open-minded hearing."
In an official statement issued Sunday night, Olmert's attorneys said that they were "sorry, but not surprised, to learn of the indictment against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. We are now gearing to prove his innocence.
"The indictment… has amassed irrelevant details while attributing criminal significance to certain acts, although there is no evidence indicating any wrongdoing.
"We regret that based on this indictment some have already been quick to decide his fate in the public arena. We urge all those rushing to judgment to remember that Mr. Olmert is presumed innocent and will prove to be so by the end of the trial. We trust the court's pure considerations and know that the judges, whoever they may be, will decide this case on merits of fact."
One indictment, three scandals
The Talansky case will see Olmert face charges of fraud, breach of trust and fraudulently obtaining benefits. The State will argue that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit funds from American businessman Morris Talansky, dating back to 1993 and spanning his tenures as mayor of Jerusalem and industry, trade and labor minister.
According to the indictment, the Talansky case saw Olmert "abuse his position in order to assist Talansky in his business ventures, despite a clear conflict of interests."
The Rishontours double billing case includes charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion, as well as a charge of fraudulently obtaining benefits to which the State attributes aggravated circumstances.
The State alleges that between 2002-2006, while serving in public office, Olmert double and triple-billed his various trips abroad, using the excess funds to finance private trips worldwide.
The investment center case, in which the State charged Olmert with fraud and breach of trust, will see the prosecution allege gross conflict of interests in Olmert's dealings with the center between 2003-2006, when he served as industry, trade and labor minister.
A fourth investigation against former Prime Minister Olmert, this time concerning illegal political appointments, is still pending an indictment decision.
Olmert and his defense team are said to be planning to launch a PR campaign, meant to convince the public that the allegations against him are unfounded. Amir Dan, the former PM's communications director, said that "the attorney general and state prosecutor never had any other option except filing an indictment.
"The court, however, is free of outside considerations and therefore would be able to prove his innocence once and for all. It's important to remember that both the Cremieux and the Leumi investigations began with a media ruckus and ended with nothing, as will this case."
Sources close to the former premier called slammed the indictment as being "stale Swiss cheese, full of holes, contradictions and conflicting evidence."
The State Prosecutor's Office, they added, "Appears to have decided to ignore Talansky's early deposition, which found him an unreliable witness."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report