Olmert acquitted of central corruption charges (JERUSALEM POST) By YONAH JEREMY BOB 07/11/12)
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The Jerusalem District Court acquitted former prime minister Ehud
Olmert on Tuesday of the central corruption charges against him and
convicted him only of the minor crime of breach of trust.
In one of the most significant corruption trials in the country’s
history, the court found Olmert not guilty of wrongdoing in the
Rishon Tours affair, the Talansky affair and allegations regarding
misleading the state comptroller, only finding him guilty of a single
charge in the Investment Center affair.
The indictment spanned events that allegedly took place during 2002-
2006, first during Olmert’s tenure as mayor of Jerusalem and later
when he served as a government minister.
In the Rishon Tours charge, Olmert was accused of double-billing
various nonprofit organizations for overseas flights and using the
extra funds – totaling $92,000 – to pay for private trips for himself
and his family, via his Rishon Tours travel agency.
The court exonerated Olmert in this case, stating that the evidence
presented did not prove the state’s theory that there had been
systematic corruption relating to the double-billing.
The court noted that there was no uniform method to the double-
billing in that sometimes Olmert obtained funds larger than what was
needed for his tickets, sometimes exactly what was needed and
sometimes less than the full price of his tickets.
In fact, as the defense had also pointed out, out of 71 trips that
Olmert took abroad during the period in question, the state had only
sought to convict him on double-billing relating to a small number of
flights. Furthermore, the court found that he could have obtained far
more funds for private trips than $92,000 if he had been
systematically exploiting the double-billing method he was accused of
The court also concluded that some of the questionable methods that
the Rishon Tours agency used in booking flights for Olmert were
independent actions taken without coordinating with him or his
office, and of which he had no knowledge.
In the Talansky affair, Olmert was charged with receiving $600,000
from American businessman Morris Talansky from 1993-2005.
Talansky and other donors gave Olmert money, which was held in what
the indictment referred to as a secret fund, by Olmert’s longtime
friend and former partner Uri Messer. In return, Olmert assisted
Talansky in 2004-2005 with various business transactions by asking
for favors on Talansky’s behalf from Israeli businessmen, the
indictment said. Olmert had claimed that the funds were not for
personal use, but for political purposes.
The court held that letters Olmert sent to businessmen Sheldon
Adelson, Yitzhak Teshuva and others were only to help introduce
Talansky to them. While noting that the state had showed a basis for
Olmert acting in a way that implicated issues of conflict of
interest, the court ultimately found no real evidence that Olmert
used his powers as a public servant to obtain anything inappropriate
Regarding the “secret” cash funds being held by Messer for Olmert,
the court concluded that the state had shown that the circumstances
However, the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the
funds were not used for political purposes, which meant the court
could not convict Olmert.
Olmert had also been accused of failing to disclose donations from US
businessman Joe Almaliah to the state comptroller and misleading the
state comptroller regarding the donations.
The court held that in some instances the state failed to prove any
significant connection between Olmert’s alleged misrepresentations to
the state comptroller and the state comptroller’s evaluation of his
actions. In other instances, the court held that the state had not
even proved that Olmert’s statements were untrue.
Olmert’s sole conviction was for the most minor of the charges in the
Investment Center affair. Even there, the court did not convict
Olmert of fraud, but only of breach of public trust.
The court convicted Olmert on the grounds that he did not disqualify
himself from oversight over Messer’s transactions, despite the
court’s finding that his connections with Messer rose to both an
economic and personal level that required him to recuse himself.
Next, the court said that it was irrelevant whether Olmert conceived
of his actions as being a violation of the public trust as the
standard for the crime did not require an accused’s knowledge, only
that they act inappropriately. Olmert’s actions fit the latest
judicial interpretations regarding the crime of breach of public
trust, the court said. In some instances, Olmert had taken overt
actions to the benefit of Messer, even contradicting the judgment of
all of his bureaucratic staff with no apparent professional reason
for doing so, it added.
Olmert and his attorneys responded triumphantly to the news of his
near complete acquittal.
“There are judges in Jerusalem,” Olmert said, quoting former prime
minister Menachem Begin and praising the court’s decision, while also
emphasizing that it was clearly a professional, legal decision and
that he did not feel that he had been given special treatment.
In a backhanded slap to the prosecution however, he also noted that
unlike some parties, the court at least knew how to treat him with
respect as a person.
All three of Olmert’s lawyers slammed the state prosecution for
forcing a sitting prime minister to leave office over “aesthetic”
Olmert said that he accepted the court’s decision regarding
the “technical” conviction of breach of trust and that he would
seriously take to heart and learn the lessons of the conviction.
The conviction was only technical in nature and the court did not
find that Olmert intentionally or systematically violated the public
trust or that he committed fraud, Olmert’s attorneys said.
A defiant Moshe Lador, the state attorney in the case against Olmert,
held a rare press conference on Tuesday evening defending the state
attorney’s role in the case, and said that he would not resign from
his position following the verdict.
“The law requires us to file indictments where the evidence in our
possession leads us to believe there will be a reasonable chance of
conviction,” he said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 07/11/12)
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