Olmert's Brother's Firm May Be Probed

The police and prosecution are seeking to depose overseas residents, especially in the United States, in connection with the Holyland corruption scandal, to determine whether former prime minister Ehud Olmert funneled funds through manpower agencies set up by his brother Yossi in China.

The State Comptroller's Office had previously received information about Yossi Olmert's activities in China, as did the police, but it was not deemed to warrant a criminal investigation. Now, however, police are attempting to determine whether these personnel agencies served as a conduit for bribes that the former prime minister allegedly received in exchange for expediting construction of the Holyland residential complex in Jerusalem. Yossi Olmert currently lives in the U.S.

Sources close to the former prime minister said yesterday that he indeed transferred funds to his brother in the U.S., but these were merely Yossi Olmert's legitimate share of the proceeds from the sale of family property that the brothers inherited in Binyamina.

In their overseas depositions, the police and prosecution will also seek information about fund transfers stemming from legitimate business transactions that the former prime minister conducted in recent years. Police want to discover whether those same financial channels were later used to transfer bribe money.

Police expect that indictments will ultimately be filed against all of those arrested in the Holyland case thus far, including attorney Uri Messer, who is an Olmert confidant, and Shula Zaken, the prime minister's former office manager.

If so, Messer would most likely be transformed from a prosecution witness to a defendant in two cases on which the former premier is currently standing trial: one involving Olmert's alleged receipt of cash-filled envelopes from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, and one involving alleged influence-peddling by Olmert at the Industry Ministry's Investments Center. The state hinted as much this week, when it asked the High Court of Justice for more time to formulate its response to a petition demanding that Messer be indicted in these cases, on the grounds that the implications of the Holyland investigation are not yet clear.

Messer's indictment would also put pressure on him to incriminate Olmert.

As for Meir Rabin, the alleged middleman for the Holyland bribes, his lawyers insisted yesterday that his continued detention is designed to break his spirit and make him cooperate with the police and incriminate other suspects.

And Ehud Olmert himself attacked law enforcement officials yesterday over their conduct of the Holyland case, calling it a "brutal witch hunt" of a kind the country has never seen before.