Prosecution Ends Probe Into Olmert's Alleged Improper Political Appointments

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

The State Prosecutor's Office has decided to end the criminal investigation of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and also of former cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel, regarding alleged political appointments at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. The decision to shut the case file was announced yesterday afternoon.

The investigation was based on allegations concerning Olmert's activities between 2003-2005, when he served as Industry, Trade and Labor Minister, and also Communications Minister and Finance Minister.

Olmert had been suspected of abusing his authority in the various ministries to appoint members of the Likud party center and other political allies, in violation of public interest. His motivation was allegedly a desire to strengthen his status in Likud, and in the political arena in general.

The main reason the prosecutor is ending this investigation is because of two other abuse-of-power cases against Olmert. In the first case, Jerusalem's District Court acquitted him on most counts. The second case is the Holyland affair, which is being adjudicated in Tel Aviv District Court (proceedings in this case will continue in September, after the current summer recess in the court system ).

In the Holyland case, the former prime minister is alleged to have received bribes in exchange for his support of the lavish Jerusalem building project. State prosecutors have decided that due to the intensity of this case - trial proceedings will be held four times a week in September - it would not be feasible to proceed with the investigation of the political appointments affair.

The appointments affair erupted in October 2007, when then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, acting on a state comptroller's report on illicit appointments, ordered that an investigation be launched to probe Olmert's activities as industry, trade and labor minister. Police believed they had sufficient evidence to warrant indictments against Olmert and Yehezkel, who during the period in question had served as Olmert's top ministerial adviser, and handed over their findings to the State Prosecutor's Office in June 2009.

Amir Dan, Olmert's media adviser, called the closure of the appointments affair investigation "too little too late." Dan claimed that "the heavy damage was done when they removed Olmert from his post as prime minister, without foundation." He argued that the subject of political appointments was "deliberately inflated out of proportion. Most of the appointments attributed to Olmert were never, in fact, carried out by him. Olmert did nothing that was illicit, or which violated the law."

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.Credit: Moti Milrod