Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last night responded angrily to the latest police investigation into suspicions about the funding of trips he took abroad while acting prime minister and minister of industry, trade and labor.
Minutes before flying to Paris for the conference of the Union for the Mediterranean, Olmert attacked the police and the prosecution, saying that the leaks to the press shortly after his questioning on Friday constituted a violation of all accepted norms in a democracy. He said these actions would damage public faith in the law enforcement authorities.
Reponding directly to suspicions that he stole money from public institutions such as Yad Vashem and the AKIM association for the mentally disabled, Olmert said: "These are institutions on whose behalf I worked, and I invested enormous energy in raising funds for them. I believe I made a very important contribution to them." He called the suspicions about favors received by his family "despicable."
Earlier this weekend Olmert spoke about the new investigation. "A distorted picture is being painted," Olmert said. The prime minister claimed he had nothing to do with the logistical arrangements for his trips. Associates pointed out that he made dozens of trips abroad every year, all on a volunteer basis. "There were no double receipts," his cronies said. "Perhaps there were errors, or disorder, but there was no system whose goal was to steal money."
One Olmert associate called the new investigation a "putsch attempt" aimed at bringing down an incumbent prime minister.
The reports of the latest suspicions against Olmert and his family prodded his defense team into pulling out the heavy artillery. Attorney Navot Telzur is convinced the timing is not coincidental, and that the entire investigation is aimed squarely at deposing Olmert as prime minister.
"They know that in [Moshe] Talansky's cross-examination we'll expose how they built up a version for Talansky, how they put words in [attorney Uri] Messer's mouth," Telzur said. "It's a well-orchestrated move by law enforcement authorities to ruin the prime minister."
Telzur claimed the publication of the latest allegations against Olmert was coordinated by the police because they fear that U.S. businessman Morris Talansky's story will crumble on cross-examination by Olmert's lawyers. "They wanted legitimation for ending the investigation before the cross-examination in order to divert public attention," Telzur said. "There's a war going on. They're hitting way below the belt .... They want a war? They'll get one," he said.
A source close to the examination refuted this claim. He said the timing of the publication was connected to a delay in scheduling, for which Olmert is responsible. According to the source, had Olmert agreed to the original police request and cleared time in his schedule to answer their questions, then Friday's questioning would have taken place about a month ago and the travel-funding allegations would have been made public immediately afterward.
A police spokesman rejected Telzur's claims and said, "The investigation is being conducted in a professional manner."
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