Olmert - 2.6.11
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on June 2, 2011. Photo by Kobi Gideon
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Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday denied the assertion in his indictment that he stored funds in a "secret safe" in his friend attorney Uri Messer's office.

The indictment stated that "between 2003 and 2006, when the defendant, among other things, served as industry, trade and labor minister, Olmert maintained a 'secret safe' by means of his confidant, attorney Messer."

The indictment charged that a large sum of dollars that Olmert had received in cash from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky were stored in the safe, as well as additional money belonging to Olmert that he received from unknown sources.

In response to this accusation, Olmert told the Jerusalem District Court yesterday, "I unequivocally reject this claim as it appears in the charge sheet. I did not keep a secret safe in any way, shape or form. The claim in unfounded."

Olmert objected vehemently to the description of the alleged safe as "secret."

"Whether it appears in quotation marks or not, the term aims to claim that there was a hidden conspiracy, and that it involved corruption," he said. "I strongly deny the entire matter."

Olmert said the way in which the indictment presents the affair "is part of a pathetic and methodical" effort to smear him. The cash, he added, was "political money for funding my ongoing activity between elections."

But he said he was surprised to hear that Messer kept the money in cash. "In retrospect, I was surprised when I was told that it was in a safe. But there is nothing wrong with that. If the funds are legitimate, then keeping them in a safe is legitimate. What shocked me was the description of covert funds in a secret safe."

Last Thursday, Olmert concluded his testimony on the first charge against him: that he double-billed various nonprofits for the same overseas flights and pocketed the surplus. He is now testifying on the second charge, his alleged receipt of cash-filled envelopes from Talansky, and will then move on to the third: alleged improper interference in decisions by the Industry Ministry's Investment Center.