Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be questioned again Friday about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he allegedly received over 15 years from Jewish-American millionaire Morris Talansky. The interview comes amid heightened wrangling between the police and Olmert's associates.
A police source said Thursday that the allegations are extremely serious and that an ordinary citizen would have been arrested by now had such accusations been leveled.
Olmert's associates accused the police of turning the case into a "personal campaign" against the prime minister, suggesting that Olmert would not be treated fairly during the interview.
Olmert has allocated two hours for his talk with the police. A source familiar with the investigation said new evidence strengthens the suspicions against Olmert. For example, witnesses in the United States told the police that they had seen Talansky carrying cash intended for Olmert.
Olmert intends to tell the detectives that he does not remember details of specific occasions on which Talansky financed flights and hotel rooms for him, if he is asked about it, sources close to Olmert said.
Law enforcement sources said that had Olmert not been prime minister, he would have been arrested long ago. "Anyone else would have been arrested had similar suspicions been raised against him. Unlike any other suspect, Olmert is getting privileged treatment. He is setting the date and duration of the questioning," a source said.
Olmert's media adviser Amir Dan said that "it's time the police stopped their tendentious leaks. When the police leak, its called 'the public's right to know,' but when a suspect tries to defend himself he is accused of damaging the rule of law."
Dan said that "nothing the police say surprises me any more," commenting on the report that the police will be tougher with Olmert today and would not let him speak on the phone or scold them for leaks.
He said that "the police's threats remind me of other days and regimes. Where has it been heard that police in a democratic country talk like that against an elected prime minister?"
Olmert's associates said they were concerned he would not be treated fairly by the police today due to Dan's attacks on alleged police leaks in the affair.
"The police have turned this case into a personal campaign against Olmert. We didn't start the leaks. The media has been full of headlines against Olmert in recent weeks, leaked by the police and prosecution," a source close to Olmert said.
Police sources said they were conducting a clean, fair and professional investigation. They said they were angry over the accusations leveled at them by Olmert and his associates.
The new findings also include invoices from hotels in the United States that Olmert stayed in, indicating who had paid for them.
Olmert denies the suspicions and says he received the money as legal contributions to his election campaigns. He said he would resign if he is indicted.
Olmert's attorneys submitted an urgent request to the Jerusalem District Court Thursday asking that the materials from their client's third round of questioning today be transferred to them immediately after the interview.
The attorneys announced that since the defense team had yet to receive all the investigation materials from the prosecution, they would not be able to complete Talansky's cross-examination and would have to summon him for further questioning.
The police said they would submit all the new investigation material to Olmert's attorneys.
Olmert met his lawyers Eli Zohar, Navot Tel-Tzur and Ron Shapira Thursday to prepare for Friday morning's questioning.
Sources close to Olmert said he could not be expected to answer questions about specific cases in which Talansky allegedly paid for upgrading flights, hotel rooms and other expenses. If questioned about these things, Olmert will say he does not remember details of specific incidents from long ago.
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