Animosity Marks Start of Olmert Cross-examination

Former prime minister on trial for fraud and breach of trust.

The prosecution began its cross-examination of Ehud Olmert at the Jerusalem District Court yesterday, where the former prime minister is on trial for fraud and breach of trust. Olmert could barely conceal his hostility toward prosecutor Uri Korb, who attempted to undermine Olmert's credibility.

Yesterday was spent on whether Olmert knew U.S. businessman Morris Talansky covered a NIS 300,000 debt for the nonprofit that ran Olmert's 1998 campaign. Korb tried showing Olmert had lied and told different versions to police investigators and the court. Korb also appeared to be trying to prove the funding committed Olmert to Talansky.

Ehud Olmert
Emil Salman

"The accused claims he didn't know before the interrogation that Talansky covered the nonprofit's debts," Korb told the court. "We will prove this claim is untrue. We say Talansky indeed covered the debt, and contrary to what you told the court, you knew it was Talansky."

Olmert repeatedly said he didn't know about the money, which would appear to contradict statements that he and his attorney Uri Messer had made to the police. "I didn't know Talansky covered the debt and you can't distort this fact. The money was paid to the bank to cover the nonprofit's debts and you can't say it was given to me personally. This would be falsifying the facts," he said.

Olmert, who would not address or mention Korb by name, said, "The questioner ... can't resolve it for himself and move on to the next issue. He's getting caught up in the questions. I don't see what there is to hide, the easiest thing is to say it's Talansky, obviously this is political money, I have nothing to hide."

Olmert claimed Messer told him the funds came from a client. He said he didn't know who the client was, or about the connection between Messer and Talansky.

Korb and Messer made little effort to conceal their mutual hostility. Olmert said the prosecutors could learn humility, while Korb accused him of lying. "I will allow myself to ignore the style of the question," Olmert responded. "Each man and his style."

Olmert was indicted in August 2010 on charges of fraud, falsifying corporate documents, tax evasion and breach of trust and is currently tied up in several corruption scandals.

The cross-examination will continue tomorrow.