Court Rejects Petition to Keep Talansky in Israel for Further Questioning

Olmert's attorneys tell key witness in corruption probe they have proof he lied about money transfers.

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday rejected a request for an order to be issued postponing the departure from Israel of the key witness in a probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Morris Talansky, in order to grant further time for him to be questioned.

The request, made by State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, was said to have aroused the judges' amazement.

Talansky, a Jewish American businessman, is a witness in what has become known as the "cash envelopes" affair surrounding suspicions that Olmert illicitly received funds from the Jewish millionaire over the course of 15 years.

The petition was opposed by Talansky's attorney, who said of his client in response that, "Here is a man who has made a hard effort. But now the possibility of keeping him here for another period of time is not a possibility that exists, from our point of view."

However, the court did rule that Talansky's cross-examination, which entered its fourth day on Monday, would continue on August 31 and September 1. In addition to this, Talansky will also be questioned on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Olmert on Monday submitted an urgent complaint to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Monday about the leaking of police documents from the investigation to the media.

Olmert's lawyer, Eli Zohar, requested that Mazuz open a police investigation immediately in order to locate the source of the leak. In a letter to Mazuz, Zohar wrote that "the leaking of the investigation of the PM has crossed every boundary."

The prime minister's complain came after the Israeli newspaper Maariv published documents on Sunday showing that Olmert told investigators from the National Fraud Investigation Unit no less than 58 times that he either did not know the answer to their questions or that he did not remember the development of events.

Olmert's attorneys to Talansky: We can prove you lied about transfers

Earlier in the day, the premier's lawyers confronted Talansky saying that despite his insistent denials, they had proof he ordered the transfer of funds into Olmert's accounts.

Olmert's lawyer Navot Tel-Tzur presented Talansky with a document, signed by him, ordering the transfer of $100,000 into the trust account in the name of Olmert's former close associate Uri Messer. Talansky has repeatedly denied any knowledge of such transfers throughout the investigation.

Tel-Tzur confronted the witness, saying "now Mr. Talansky, I will not let this pass. I will not have you spreading statements. Here, in this courtroom, you told these judges 'I want to see the original document. Who signed it? Because I have certain suspicions.' You gave the original order!"

Talansky responded that he did not remember having signed the document.

Tel-Tzur then presented Talansky with a copy of the correspondence between himself and the bank manager asking for a total of $210,000 to be transferred in various transactions into Messer's account and his own account.

Olmert's defense team argued that Talansky had split the transfer orders into two different days due to limitations imposed by the U.S. money laundering laws that require banks to report money transfers over a certain amount.

The defense attorney stressed that the police had obtained the document as early as May 19 but the prosecution maintained that they had received a copy on June 3 and therefore was not presented to Talansky in his initial questioning.

Tel-Tzur also complained Monday at the start of the hearing that the "unprecedented publication" of details from the investigation "borders on obstruction of justice and we urge the state prosecution to take action and put an end to this phenomenon."

Lador agreed with Tel-Tzur, saying the leaks were indicative of a grave phenomenon. "This is something that we experience in other investigations as well. If we find the source of the leaks, we will take all the necessary steps against them. I want to say that I don't think the leaked materials came from a public servant, policeman or anyone in the state prosecution," he said.

On Sunday, Olmert's attorneys played video clips from police interrogations that showed Talansky changing his account of sums he said he had given Olmert.

Asked to explain the discrepancies, Talansky said they stemmed from "a state of confusion and fear" during police questioning - and he insisted figures he had given originally had been accurate.

"I'd appreciate if you didn't call me a liar," Talansky told Olmert attorney Eli Zohar after the lawyer asked whether his testimony "is a truth or a lie."

Talansky previously told police he gave Olmert $150,000, much of it in cash-filled envelopes, before Olmert became prime minister in 2006. Both Olmert and Talansky have denied any wrongdoing.

The focus of Sunday's cross-examination was a $25,000 payment Talansky told police in May was meant to finance an Olmert family vacation to Italy and a $72,500 Talansky described as a donation to Olmert's election campaign.

Olmert's lawyers showed video clips from police interrogations showing Talansky changing his account of the sums he gave, even within the space of a single police session.

Zohar accused Talansky of telling police what they wanted to hear so they would stop intimidating him.

Talansky, who has complained in court several times about police browbeating, explained the discrepancies in his statements as an outgrowth of "a state of confusion and fear" and "a state of agitation."

"They created a total atmosphere of illogical thinking," said Talansky. His statements to police under those circumstances, he said, "were words, not things thought out."