Retrial of Talansky 'Cash Envelopes' Case Reopens in Jerusalem

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Morris Talansky in courtCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Talansky "cash envelopes" affair was reopened in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday morning.

The case involves alleged receipt by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of donations from New York businessman Morris Talansky, between 1997 and 2005, that were not properly reported. Charged with fraud, breach of trust and concealing fraudulent earnings in the affair, Olmert was acquitted in 2012. Last month, however, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial.

Debate in the Jerusalem courtroom centered around a request by Olmert’s defense team for additional investigative materials – including all the recordings that Shula Zaken, the premier's former bureau chief, gave to the State Prosecutor’s Office – and not just portions of the recordings that the Supreme Court ruled could be submitted as additional evidence. Tapes of conversations between Zaken and Olmert and between Zaken and Olmert’s defense attorney, Navot Tel-Tzur, were handed over to the defense.

According to attorney Uri Korb, the prosecutor in the case, the information includes 30 recordings that Zaken made with her iPhone and another device. Officials of the State Prosecutor’s Office mentioned 10 of them in particular, which were not transcribed, as being irrelevant and constituting an invasion of Zaken’s privacy. Among them were audio recordings of Zaken’s conversations with a channeler whom she consulted.

The parties agreed, though, that these 10 recordings would be submitted Wednesday to the court, which will determine whether they are relevant to the case. Korb added that a certificate of confidentiality had been issued with respect to some of the excerpts, for fear that state security might be compromised should they be exposed.

The defense has also demanded to receive the recording of a conversation Zaken had with her attorneys, Ofer Bartal and Dov Gilad Cohen, in preparation for her testimony in the multimillion-dollar corruption case surrounding Jerusalem's Holyland residential complex – in which both she and Olmert were later convicted – the night before she took the stand.

Olmert’s defense team, led by attorney Eyal Rosovsky, asked to receive the devices that had made the recordings so that their authenticity might be examined. Although the State Prosecutor’s Office gave the defense a professional opinion confirming their authenticity, the defense insists on having the devices examined by experts of their own choosing.

In his comments on the subject, Korb said, “Olmert was questioned about the recordings by the police, and I do not recall him saying that neither he nor she said what is heard there.”

The defense also asked for the state’s witness agreement that has been signed with Zaken. Korb claimed that no such document had been signed with her “even though there is no argument that she is [a state’s witness].”

A gag order has been imposed on the recordings that will be submitted to the court, apparently until Zaken testifies.

The panel of judges ruled that Zaken, who is currently serving an 11-month sentence in Neveh Tirza Prison for her role in the Holyland case, will take the stand on November 3. Sources in the State Prosecutor’s Office believe that Zaken’s testimony will take a single day, while the defense is convinced it will require three to four court dates.

Olmert was excused from attending Tuesday’s hearing, in which Rosovsky replaced Navot Tel-Zur, who represented the premier previously in the Talansky trial, but is suspected of obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Another member of Olmert’s defense team, Roy Blecher, has also testified to police in the case.

At the hearing, attorney Eli Zohar, who also represented the former prime minister in the previous trial related to the Talansky case, said: “This is a completely extraordinary proceeding that has no parallel. We found that we were connected: Navot Tel-Zur, Roy Blecher and my own name were mentioned on those recordings. We asked Eyal Rosovsky to join the team for fear that some sort of personal involvement would be revealed.”

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