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Friday, May 02, 2008

Yet another Olmert scandal

Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert was questioned 'under caution' this morning at his Jerusalem home for 90 minutes. The questioning took place with only 48-hours advance warning to prevent Olmert from coordinating his testimony with his former office chief of staff Shula Zaken.

The subject of the questioning has been shrouded in mystery. All we were told earlier today was that the issue arose out of one of the three pending investigations into Olmert's corruption (the purchase of his Jerusalem home, illegal appointments when he was Minister of Industry and Trade, and the Income Tax Authority bribery scandal; you may recall that charges arising out of the sale of Bank Leumi to the private sector were dismissed).

But in the last hour YNet is reporting that Olmert is being charged with accepting some serious bribes from American businessmen.
According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the alleged bribes amount to a small fortune, paid in cash in various occasions which took place both in Israel and abroad. The businessman in question, who is currently in Israel, is said to be cooperating with the police.

The new investigation is not directly linked to one of the ongoing investigations against Olmert, but its leads did surface while the police were working on one of them.

Shula Zaken, who served as Olmert's bureau chief for years, was reportedly interrogated by the National Fraud Investigations Unit on Tuesday. Zaken has been questioned by the police in the past in connection to other investigations held against the PM, as well as in connection with an affair which exposed alleged corruption in the Israeli Tax Authority.

"The prime minister intends to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials, as he has done in the past," said the Prime Minister's Office Thursday. "He is convinced that as the truth will emerge in the framework of the police investigation, the suspicions against him will dissipate."

At this time, Olmert is facing three different investigations related to the time he served as the minister of trade, labor, and commerce.
My guess is that this did not arise out of any of the three existing investigations, but out of the Bank Leumi scandal, and that the police have concluded that Olmert took bribes from the Bank Leumi bidders but that they weren't necessarily directly connected to Bank Leumi. Here's my basis for saying that:
On Tuesday night, Israel's Channel 10 cable news reported that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has given orders to the police to open investigations into three separate criminal matters relating to Olmert upon Olmert's return from China. The three criminal matters relate to:
1. The sale of the government's controlling interest in Bank Leumi in 2005 when Olmert was Finance Minister. Olmert allegedly broke the law in favor of his friends, Daniel Abrams and Frank Louie – with whom he conducted, directly and indirectly, a relationship which allegedly involved bribery.
Faster, faster - let's get this investigation moving already.


At 7:47 PM, Blogger Steve said...

If the voters or the political system can't bring down this poor excuse for a PM, hopefully this scandal will. Next to get rid of Livni and Barak.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert is a lucky guy. Nothing seems to stick to him. Bear in mind his potential replacements are just as clueless in dealing with Israel's security challenges.


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