Legal Officials: Olmert’s Corruption Claims Against Barak Are Weak

Ex-prime minister accused ex-defense minister of 'taking millions;' sources expect inquiry to produce little barring.

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Then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak hold a press conference in 2009.
Then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak hold a press conference in 2009.Credit: Nir Kafri
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

The corruption claims by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert against his defense minister, Ehud Barak, hold little weight and are mainly rumors, say legal officials familiar with Olmert’s testimony to the police.

In November, Channel 10 News played recordings in which Olmert said Barak had taken “bribes worth millions.” Barak has denied the allegations. Barak was Olmert’s defense minister from June 2007 until Olmert left office in March 2009.

While some of the evidence will be investigated further, Justice Ministry officials expect the inquiry to produce little barring an eleventh-hour find, the legal sources said.

Several weeks ago Olmert was questioned by the national fraud squad over his allegations, which were made during the recorded conversation with his bureau chief, Shula Zaken.

Barak “took bribes worth millions and tens of millions,” Olmert said. “There is no weapons deal Israel does ... everyone is talking about it.”

Zaken then asked Olmert where the money was.

“He hides it in Switzerland or in some law firm, he transfers it to a company where Barak’s name doesn’t appear,” Olmert said.

Although this conversation appeared in transcripts that the prosecution possessed for months, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein reportedly only ordered a look into the claims after the Channel 10 report.

“We dealt solely with checking the transcripts that related to the allegations against Olmert,” a legal official told Haaretz. “But when the conversation about Barak was revealed, prosecution officials were told to carefully go over all the transcripts of conversations between Olmert and Zaken again, to see if there were any criminal allegations against other people. No such suspicion emerged.”

In an interview with Haaretz, Barak denied the allegations, saying Zaken and Olmert were simply planning how to extract themselves from their “criminality.” Last month, Zaken was released from prison early after receiving an 11-month sentence for her role in the Holyland corruption scandal. Olmert has been sentenced to six years in prison but is appealing.

Barak, meanwhile, said the allegations against him were groundless — “a fantasy” and “insane” — but that he had heard such rumors about him before.

The state prosecution is also about to make decisions on several key cases. One expected soon is whether to prosecute former defense minister and Labor MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer for accepting bribes.

Decisions are also expected on the major figures in the Harpaz forged-document affair, including former Israel Defense Forces chief Gabi Ashkenazi, though the case against the lieutenant general is widely expected to be closed.

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