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Olmert under investigation

by: Aviram Zino, Ynetnews.com - Last updated: 2007-01-17

Ehud Olmert

Ehud Omert

Israel's state prosecutor Eran Shendar has ordered police to launch a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his alleged role in the Bank Leumi affair.

Shendar and Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz recently received the results of a preliminary police examination of the affair, after which it was decided to launch a full investigation.

On Monday sources familiar with the affair told Ynet that according to the evidence obtained by the State Prosecution, ‘an indictment will be filed against Olmert over the Bank Leumi affair.’

The evidence includes specific documentation of Olmert’s activity on behalf of his associates; it was reported that the prime minister did not disclose the fact that his son-in-law was the attorney for a friend who was competing in the Bank Leumi tender.

Shendar’s instruction was forwarded to Major General Yohanan Danino, head of the police's investigation and intelligence department. In his letter to Danino, Shedar said, “The preliminary examination’s findings led us to the conclusion that the evidence justifies the launching of a criminal investigation.”

It was recently reported that a decision had already been reached to investigate the privatization of Bank Leumi based on the testimony of Accountant General Yaron Zelicha.

It was further reported that the prime minister is expected to be investigated over additional affairs, including the alleged illegal appointments at the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority during the prime minister’s tenure as minister of industry, commerce, and labor, and the PM’s association with his confidante, Attorney Uri Messer, who was a partner in Olmert’s law firm until 1988.

Messer was one of the key figures in the affair involving Olmert’s purchase of a luxury apartment on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem. Messer allegedly conducted the business negotiations on Olmert’s behalf.

Reports said Olmert received a $320,000 discount on the apartment in exchange for expediting construction permits.

Aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in response that he is proud of the sale of Bank Leumi under his tenure as industry, trade and labor minister.

"We call on the law enforcement authorities to do their jobs as fast as possible to dispel this cloud," one aide said.

The decision to launch the probe was taken by the State Comptroller and not by Mazuz who chose not to rule on the matter to avoid a conflict of interests because of the role his sister played in the bank's sale in her capacity as legal advisor at the Finance Ministry.

The economic branch of the State Comptroller's Office under the leadership of Avia Alulf will follow the investigation.

Last October, the State Comptroller asked Mazuz to launch an investigation into Olmert's role in the sale arguing that he had found enough evidence pointing that the prime minister, along with additional parties, were bribed during the sale of the majority shares in Bank Leumi in 2005.

The allegations claim that Olmert, who was Minister of Finance at the time, apparently broke the law for two of his friends – Daniel Abrams and Frank Lowy – with whom he conducted, directly and indirectly, a relationship plagued by bribes.

The attorney general received the investigation materials from the state comptroller and passed them along to the state prosecutors for further examination and a policy recommendation as to legal recourse.

Reproduced with permission: Ynet