U.S. Businessman Tells Court He Transferred $30,000 to Ehud Olmert's Brother

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

Morris Talansky transferred $30,000 to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's brother Yossi, after Olmert asked him to help Yossi, who was in financial trouble, the American-Jewish fundraiser told the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday.

Olmert's lawyers deny the former premier had ever asked Talansky to help his brother.

Talansky - whose cash donations to the former premier were the focus of a corruption case brought against Olmert, in which Olmert was acquitted last year - was testifying this time in the Holyland corruption trial. In this case, Olmert and other defendants are accused of taking bribes in exchange for helping the developers of the massive Holyland project in Jerusalem expand the project in contravention of zoning regulations.

Talansky was called to testify to support the testimony of state's witness S.D., who had testified that Olmert had asked him for half a million shekels for his brother, who had sunk into debt.

During the hearing, the prosecution submitted records of a $30,000 transfer from Talansky's Citibank account in New York to Yossi Olmert's account at Bank Mizrahi in Ra'anana in November 2004. Talansky testified that he didn't know and had never met or spoken to Yossi Olmert, so it's clear that someone had asked him to transfer the money.

Talansky said that Olmert's top aide Shula Zaken had given him the bank account information to facilitate the transfer.

Talansky testified that he had told Olmert that even after all the help he had given him to fund his political campaign and cover his debts, he didn't think it was proper for him to be involved in anything relating to Olmert's family.

"I told him I didn't want anything to do with this, but she [Zaken] said, 'Please, do it,'" he said.

During cross-examination, however, Olmert's attorney, Roy Blecher, argued that Talansky's court testimony was the first time he had claimed Olmert himself had asked him for money for his brother, and that this did not match with what he had told police when questioned in both 2008 and 2010, as well as during a "refresher" meeting the prosecution held with him last week.

Blecher read from a transcript of Talansky's police testimony in 2008, in which he told police that Olmert had never asked him for money for his brother. "No, no, no, he never asked. He hated his brother," Talansky said then. In 2010, Talansky was quoted as telling police, "He never spoke to me about his brother."

In response to Blecher's questions, Talansky said that as time went on, he began to remember that Olmert had asked him for the money, "just as I remember now."

Blecher responded: "Our argument is that Talansky, like Benjamin Button, is getting younger with time and his memory is improving. He didn't remember anything about it during the investigation, didn't remember during the refresher session, and lo, he comes to court and, as usual, remembers everything.

"As far as we're concerned, he remembers nothing. ... Olmert never approached him and never asked him to help Yossi at any stage."

Morris Talansky in courtCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yossi Olmert, brother of the former prime minister, speaks in New York.Credit: AP