Prosecution Attacks Olmert as Rishon Tours Phase of Trial Ends

District attorney tells court former prime minister evaded questions.

The summations in the so-called Rishon Tours trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opened yesterday with the prosecution sharply attacking his behavior while committing the alleged crimes and during his questioning by the police and in court.

In the case, Olmert is charged with aggravated fraud and breach of trust, as well as tax offenses and making false entries in corporate documents.

olmert - Emil Salman - December 6 2011
Emil Salman

At the center of the affair is the allegation that when Olmert made trips abroad for several organizations at a time, he would charge each for the entire trip's expenses, generating funds that would finance private trips for him and members of his family.

"The Rishon Tours case relates to the accused's exploiting his status to create benefits for himself," said Jerusalem Deputy District Attorney Uri Corb in his opening remarks. "The exploitation was systematic and continuous."

Corb said Olmert lied to police investigators and in court. "The accused's version of events given to the police was tortuous and evasive. In court we did not meet someone who was involved. We met a commentator," Corb said.

"Even when he was caught discussing some fact and was asked, 'What is your position on this and what did you know about it?' we got speeches, commentaries and an untold number of contradictions. I am full of admiration for the officers of the Anti-Fraud Unit for any fact they extracted from him."

According to Corb, "The accused gave interpretations that there is no chance he himself believes. These are not truthful interpretations - it's a deceptive interpretation of what happened. Not only does he not give us facts, even when he pretends to interpret, his interpretation is deliberately distorted."

Corb claimed that Olmert was pretending in court as well.

"Many of his outbursts were deliberate," said Corb. "One of them was the deep affront he displayed when he was asked about the money he got from the organizations. This wasn't a true insult, it was a planned response."

One of the most blatant examples of Olmert's lies, Corb said, was during his court testimony about the eavesdropping on calls allegedly done by his aide, Shula Zaken.

"The accused stood here for hours and deliberately gave testimony that was totally untrue," Corb said. "He also knew perfectly well that no one would accept this testimony and that it could not be accepted. He chose to do this for [Zaken's] benefit.

"If he is willing to tell untruths for hours when he knows that the court knows that it wasn't true, one can just imagine what he is willing to do to rescue himself in the battle of his life," Corb said.

A source on Olmert's defense team expressed satisfaction with the first day of summations.

"At this point we would have expected to see more support and proof from the prosecuting team," he said. "Instead, we heard a lot of theories. We didn't hear explanations to questions that the judges asked regarding deficits in the travel budget."

Olmert's media adviser Amir Dan said: "The prosecution's summations ignored everything that happened in court and just repeated, word for word, the indictment that was submitted at the time, as if there had been no trial here for months.

"It's convenient for attorney Corb to ignore the trial and what was proved there, including the fact that there wasn't any 'system' or instructions to obtain excess funds, and that the large number of [frequent-flyer] points accumulated had been enough for dozens of round-trip flights without any need for extra funds."