olmert - Nir Keidar - October 12 2010
Ehud Olmert. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted yesterday for the first time that he may have given money to close friend Uri Messer. His statement, made during the cross-examination phase of his trial in the Jerusalem District Court, contradicts what he told police during his investigation.

Olmert was indicted in August 2010 on charges of fraud, fraud under aggravated circumstances, falsifying corporate documents, tax evasion and breach of trust.

"Do you admit you transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to Shula Zaken (his former bureau chief ) to be passed to Uri Messer, and some of which you gave him directly?" asked prosecutor Uri Korev.

"I may have given him a contribution," replied Olmert. "I may have passed it on to Messer.... I usually gave it to Messer through Shula."

In May 2008 Olmert was asked about financial ties to Messer while he was industry, trade and labor minister. Olmert repeatedly denied such ties, though at the time Messer allegedly kept a safe for Olmert containing hundreds of thousands of dollars, dubbed "the secret register" by the prosecution.

Korev pressed Olmert about the contradictions between what he told police and what he testified in court concerning financial ties with Messer.

"You are being asked only about a financial bond between you and Messer," Korev said. "An open, short, clear question, and you reply 'no connection.' Would you agree with me that these answers are incorrect?"

Olmert avoided a direct answer and went on at length about his mental state during the investigations.