Police recommend charging Israeli PM

September 8th, 2008 - 4:43 am ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Sep 8 (DPA) Israeli police recommended Sunday evening to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges, including bribery.Olmert’s lawyers countered that the recommendation had “no meaning” and they were waiting for the final decision by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz.

Police officials met for five hours earlier in the day to review evidence against Olmert and to decide whether to make the recommendation to Mazuz, ultimately reaching an unanimous decision.

In addition to the most severe charge of bribery, police said they had gathered an apparent body of evidence strong enough to support charges of fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and other illegal acts allegedly committed by Olmert.

Mazuz and the state attorney will have to review the material from the police before making a decision.

According to the Yediot Ahronot daily, a draft indictment will only be ready after the upcoming Jewish holiday season, which ends in late October, and a final decision on whether to go ahead and charge Olmert will be made only after the premier is given a chance to present his version of events.

Sunday’s recommendation comes after detectives from the national fraud squad spent months investigating the premier, including questioning him seven times. The probe focused mostly on three of the six affairs in which he is alleged to be implicated.

Olmert is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of it in envelopes full of cash, from US-Jewish fundraiser Morris Talansky, when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a minister.

He is also suspected of double, even triple, billing sponsors for overseas visits, and using the extra money to pay for trips for his family.

A third case against the premier, one still being investigated by police, involves his service as trade and industry minister before he became premier.

In that post, he allegedly pushed for favourable responses to be given to grant applications submitted to the ministry’s investment centre by clients of his former law partner.

This case was the first of three to be investigated and evidence uncovered there led to the Talansky case, which in turn gave forth the basis for the double billing allegations.

Police said they would like to question Olmert again before issuing a recommendation in the investment centre case and would do so in the near future.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing on his part, but the investigations took their toll on his already-low popularity.

At the end of July he announced he would not contest the upcoming leadership primary of his ruling Kadima party, and would resign the premiership once the new party leader managed to form a government.

At the same time, associates of the premier engaged in a public spat with the police and the state prosecutors’ office over the conduct of the investigations.

A “close aide” to the premier was quoted in Yediot as saying that the police recommendation “is a foregone script, because had the leading police officials not recommended indicting, they would have had to tender their resignations”.

His lawyers said Sunday night that the police should have “completely abstained from issuing an opinion on the matter which is not in their area of expertise and which is not under their authority”.

Olmert’s aides and lawyers have repeatedly pointed out that police had also recommended indicting previous prime ministers, including Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, but in each case their recommendation was not followed up.

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