Uri Messer
Uri Messer. Photo by Olivier Fittousi
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Attorney Uri Messer, a key prosecution witness in the state's cases against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said on Tuesday that the largest amount of cash he ever kept for the former premier was more than $300,000.

Messer, who is considered a critical witness in the case in which Olmert stands accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash-filled envelopes from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talansky, began giving his court testimony on Tuesday.

At the start of his testimony Messer stressed that he did not have a close relationship with Olmert, despite common assumptions, and that Olmert never visited him at his home or joined him for familial celebrations. "We sometimes watched soccer matches together," he said.

Messer was later questioned with regards to a "secret fund" he allegedly managed for Olmert between 2003 and 2006, in which the cash payments from Talansky were deposited and said that the largest sum of cash he held for Olmert was "$300,000, maybe more."

When asked why Olmert did not keep the money in a bank account that gains interest Messer said "You don’t keep cash in the closet you keep it in a safe," adding that there was an understanding between them that the money would remain in cash.

According to the indictment issued against Olmert, Messer was responsible for overseeing the fund, the money for which he received from Olmert's longtime office manager, Shula Zaken. Messer testified that he usually received cash from Zaken, "it was cash, usually in dollars, in envelopes."

Messer will continue to testify over the next few weeks, and is also expected to testify against Olmert in what is known as the Investment Center affair, in which Olmert allegedly granted favors illegally to Messer, his former law firm partner.