State Comptroller to Urge Criminal Probe Into Olmert

A team of investigators from the State Comptroller's Office questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for 45 minutes yesterday in his office regarding suspicions he had received a bribe in connection with the acquisition of a home on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem.

The comptroller's report on the matter, expected to be ready in a few weeks, will serve as the basis for Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to recommend a criminal investigation against Olmert.

Meanwhile, Mazuz is considering a criminal investigation against Olmert in connection with two other real estate deals; one in the neighborhood of Nahlaot in Jerusalem and the other in Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is investigating suspicions that Olmert and his wife Aliza received $500,000 as a result of an unusually high discount in the purchase of their garden apartment on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem.

According to the suspicions, Olmert's associates helped the construction firm that refurbished the home on Cremieux Street in gaining irregular permits from the Jerusalem Municipality, which significantly increased the company's profits in the project. More specifically, the approved area for construction at the site was 350 square meters and the permits increased it to 750 square meters. This story was first published by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhaki.

Olmert and his wife purchased the home from the Alumot agency in October 2004 for $1.2 million. However, according to the findings of the comptroller, the real estimated value of the property stood at $1.8-1.6 million. More precise estimates maintain that Olmert paid $320,000 less than the home's real value.

A statement was released last night from the Prime Minister's Office saying, "the Prime Minister made clarifications for the officials of the State Comptroller's Office" regarding the home on Cremieux Street.

This is the second real estate deal for which Olmert is being investigated by the state comptroller. In a special report in March, Lindenstrauss concluded that a deal in which Olmert sold his apartment on Kaf Tet November Street in Jerusalem to American billionaire Daniel Abrams for $2.69 million, and continued to reside there for a monthly rent of $2,250, "was reasonable."

Meanwhile, the attorney general announced yesterday that he had ordered an "initial probe" regarding two other real estate deals involving Olmert, for which a complaint was filed by Ometz (Citizens for Proper Administration, Judicial and Social Justice).

The first deal, reported on Channel 10 two weeks ago, has to do with a November 1996 sale of an apartment in the Nahlaot neighborhood to Jewish-American businessman Uri Harkam for $650,000. Harkam sold the apartment four years later for a loss of $200,000.

Harkam had donated money to Olmert's campaign for the Jerusalem mayor.

In another deal reported by Yoav Yitzhaki, Olmert bought an apartment on Sheinkin Street for $420,000, but only paid $320,000.