Text size

There is a substantial evidentiary basis for indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on charges of cronyism during his term as minister of industry, trade and labor, a police source familiar with the investigation said Sunday.

"The investigatory team has made considerable progress, but the prime minister is likely to be questioned several times more before this investigation is concluded," the source said.

The prime minister was interrogated once again on Friday, mostly concerning charges pertaining to his tenure as minister of industry, trade and labor. Police sources said that Olmert has not been able to refute the majority of the suspicions raised so far.

The investigation against him in this affair began in 2007, when a report by the state comptroller, retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss, alleged that during Olmert's tenure as minister, the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority became "a platform for improper and politically motivated appointments."

The comptroller said Olmert and the ministry's director general at the time, Raanan Dinur, created a new position at the authority: of deputy director general in charge of project operation. The position was then given to attorney Lilach Nechemiah, at the time the partner of finance minister Abraham Hirshson, a close associate of Olmert. Nechemiah had previously been rejected as a candidate for a position in the government tourism authority, apparently for reasons related to her personal-political connections and lack of skills. Her appointment by Olmert and his aides as deputy director general of the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority was followed by that of three members of the Likud central committee as "project managers."

Dinur, who is currently director general of the Prime Minister's Office, was interrogated under warning several months ago, as was Olmert's senior assistant at the time, Oved Yehezkel. A close associate of the prime minister said in response: "The police have developed a sacred ritual of making assertments first and investigating later. It's sad to see that once again, they have determined where the investigation is going to lead before they actually investigate."