Former PM Olmert Questioned Regarding Contradictory Statements in Court

First day of cross-examination: my associate never hid the origin of funds found in safe.

The cross-examination stage of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s corruption trial began Monday at the Jerusalem District Court. Throughout the proceedings, Prosecuting Attorney Uri Korev pledged to confront Olmert with several statements he made during his police investigation that contradicted his court testimony.

Olmert was indicted in August 2010 on charges of fraud, fraud under aggravating circumstances, falsifying corporate documents, tax evasion and breach of trust and is currently plagued by several corruption-related scandals.

Ehud Olmert
Emil Salman / Archive

During Monday’s court proceedings, Olmert was questioned about a secret fund of $300,000 that was found in a safe belonging to his close friend and former attorney, Uri Messer. The money was allegedly donated by American businessman Morris Talansky, and was used to cover the costs of Olmert’s 1998 Jerusalem mayoral campaign in return for political favors.

According to Olmert’s testimony, Messer told Olmert that the funds were donated by an unnamed client. However, Korev presented documents showing that during his police investigation, Messer alleged that he never hid the identity of the donor. Furthermore, Korev stated that Olmert’s defense attorneys never confronted Messer about the claims during Messer’s court testimony.

In response, Olmert hinted that Messer hid the origin of the funds because he took them from a trust fund held in Talansky’s name after he assisted Talansky in buying an apartment in Jerusalem. Furthermore, Olmert said that Korev himself decided to declare Messer a hostile witness due to the prosecution’s claim that he lied in court. Korev responded by stating that the only reason this was done was due to Messer’s support of Olmert, and that there is “still plenty to report on the matter.”

Olmert’s cross-examination is expected to continue until the court recess in late July.