The frenetic pace of political and security events at the end of last week overshadowed an important announcement: The decision of State Prosecutor Moshe Lador not to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi affair.
Part of the reason the news was pushed aside was the feeling that the decision was expected, almost necessary, after the police recommendation in that vein a year ago.
Olmert, of course, gave a show of glee, but studying the case seriously will likely reveal bad news for him. Inside the rejection of the Bank Leumi case is concealed the acceptance of the Investments Center case.
In the 43 pages of his explanation, Lador lays out an entire web of improper behavior by a defective - but not criminal - public servant, in the case of then-finance minister Olmert during the attempted sale of Bank Leumi to private investors.
Lador ignores section 117 of the criminal code, which deals with revealing official information without permission. This is the section used to threaten officials suspected of leaking information, though usually to reporters and not to economically interested parties. If a finance minister who reveals internal information to investors is exempted from this clause, then why have it on the law books?
Lador states, however, that it was not a fruitless investigation. The case involved a conflict of interest, even though Lador feels there was not an adequate accumulation of "improper conduct" for a high possibility of conviction. With dry cynicism, bordering on violating medical privacy, Lador laments the memory problems the suspect and a few witnesses suffered from, including the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer.
The Bank Leumi case reflects how Olmert operated. He appointed attorney Tamar Ben-David, "a personal friend of Olmert and his wife," to the committee responsible for vetting senior civil servants, including the police commissioner. Ben-David was also a member of the Bank of Israel's licensing committee as well as an advisor to a law firm that also happened to represent a group interested in buying Bank Leumi.
In order to prepare a document presenting the proper position to a client of the firm - which Olmert's son-in-law, still on the payroll, headed in the past - "use was made of inside information, which Ben-David received from the Bank of Israel as a member of the licensing committee. This matter was also investigated and does not affect this decision," wrote Lador.
Olmert met Ben-David at least twice, including a Saturday lunch at his home, and he had asked her to bring the aforementioned document along. He then revealed to her inside information on the situation in the treasury and its preferences and plans. Olmert did not inform the professional staff in the treasury about these meetings. During the week, "Olmert and Ben-David talked another time, it seems by telephone. A mention of this conversation appears ... in Ben-David's timesheet, which she and the law office [used] to charge the client."
Just like high school teenagers, Olmert and Ben-David took pains during the investigation to differentiate between "acquaintance" and "friend."
Lador says: "Olmert and Ben-David claimed that this was not a case of close personal friendship. Olmert claimed that Ben-David is mostly a friend of his wife." Olmert had other friends too, or sort-of friends, among the lawyers of the rival investors, but the relations between them did not include financial benefits for Olmert.
And that is how, by rejecting the Bank Leumi case, it turns out Lador is building the draft of the indictment in the Investments Center case, in which Olmert is suspected of providing benefits as minister of trade and industry to his friend and former law partner Uri Messer, the go-between for Olmert and the cash-stuffed envelopes man, Morris Talansky.
Based on the Shimon Sheves breach of trust precedent and another ruling known in short as Atias, Olmert's high public position will work against him, as will his close friendship with Messer, which included business interests. He will have to answer for conflicting interests and failure to act to remove the conflict of interest and inform the treasury's professional staff of the conflict.
Another interesting fact is that police investigators are proud that there has been almost 100 percent agreement between their recommendations in cases against senior officials and the decisions of the state prosecutor and the attorney general. The Moshe Katsav case, in which Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was more forgiving than the police, is the only exception yet.
In the Investments Center case, they will most likely recommend an indictment. Either way, the investigators will pressure Olmert to set aside days - not hours - to answer questions in the political appointments case, and will present themselves to Olmert as part of his demand to be updated on the fight against organized crime.
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