A US millionaire has started to be questioned by lawyers acting for Ehud Olmert (photo, from imemc.org), Israel’s prime minister, in an Israeli court. It is part of an investigation into corruption allegations against the Israeli leader.
Two months after saying that he gave about $150 000 to Mr Olmert before he became prime minister in 2006, Morris Talansky, a financier, is being cross-examined. In May, Mr Talansky said that Ehud Olmert used some of the money for foreign travel, luxury hotels and fine cigars.
Although Mr Olmert has admitted receiving campaign funds from Mr Talansky in 1999 and 2003, he denies any wrongdoing.
His court appearance will not have any real significance on the case against Mr Olmert, said Morris Talansky.
“I’ll tell the story; it won’t be dramatic and everyone will pick up the papers and say ‘Why did we waste our time with this guy Talansky’?“ he said on Tuesday.
‘Tell the truth’
Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, said that Mr Olmert’s lawyers will try to show that when interviewed by the police, Mr Talansky has changed his version of the same events.
On Wednesday, Amir Dan, a spokesman for Olmert, said that he hoped Mr Talansky would give a reasonable testimony. “Our only expectation from tomorrow is that he will tell the truth”, he said.
The allegations against Ehud Olmert have led to calls for him to resign, even from among the ruling coalition.
Ehud Barak, Labour party leader and defence minister and a key ally in the coalition with Mr Olmert’s Kadima party, threatened to leave Olmert’s government if he did not step down, after after Morris Talansky’s first court appearance.
Mr Olmert’s coalition would not have the required 61 seats for a majority in the 120-member parliament, without Labour’s support.
But because the Likud opposition leads opinion polls, neither Kadima nor Labour want early elections.
Last month, Ehud Olmert saved the coalition, for now, by making a deal to hold a party leadership contest in mid-September.
As a new investigation has begun into reimbursement claims filed by Mr Olmert when he was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of trade, the Talansky affair continues.
It is alleged that Ehud Olmert billed private organisations and the state for the same airline tickets.
This week, Mr Olmert’s former secretary has also been questioned, over allegations that he received a discount on the price of a Jerusalem apartment, in exchange for using his influence to the benefit of a property developer.