Olmert Rental Payment Zigzags

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has put forward four versions regarding the rent he is paying to U.S. billionaire Daniel Abrams since Sunday.

Olmert sold his Jerusalem home on Kaf Tet BeNovember Street to Abrams for $2.69 million in 2004, but is still living there and paying the new owner rent.

Haaretz asked Olmert yesterday to disclose the rental agreement and furnish documents pertaining to the monthly rent transfers, but the request was rejected. The only comment from Olmert's office was that the transfers to Abrams were made on the first of every month.

On Sunday, Olmert's legal representative told Haaretz that the acting prime minister was paying $2,600 a month in rent, according to a contract signed on January 19, 2005 (almost a year after the sale), and valid for three years.

Following publication of the affair Tuesday afternoon, Olmert's office issued an official statement putting the rent at $2,250, under a contract allowing Olmert and his family to remain in the residence until the end of 2007.

Olmert's office was asked last night to explain the difference between the sum provided by one of his attorneys, Eli Zohar, and the official statement released Tuesday. "We are perplexed by the question, because attorney Eli Zohar received a copy of the contract for his perusal and noted the sum himself," came the response from Olmert's office. "The contract explicitly stipulates that the rent is $2,500."

Minutes later, Prime Minister's Office spokesman Assi Shariv called back to correct what he claimed had been a mistake. "Sorry for the error," Shariv said. "The contract explicitly notes that the rent is $2,250."

Meanwhile, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has said he intends to complete his inquiry into the sale soon. Olmert handed over all the material requested by the comptroller yesterday.

In an interview yesterday with Channel 1, Olmert said that both the previous and current comptroller had been informed of the transaction's details about 18 months ago - "of the sale, the rental agreement, the return, and even exactly what we did with all the money we received for the apartment."

Abrams, meanwhile, has yet to comment on the affair. His lawyer, Yaakov Neeman, said yesterday in an interview with Army Radio that "the sale of the home of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to U.S. businessman Daniel Abrams was completely above board."