Olmert Sought to Change Original Police Testimony

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sought to give a new version of his story on Friday, a week ago, as police interrogated him about the allegations that he took money from American businessman Morris Talansky, Channel 10 News reported this Friday. Olmert alleged that detectives had misled him two weeks earlier, the report said.

A team of detectives is expected to go to New York shortly to question Talansky's associates and to seek documents on his financial transactions.

Legal sources said the investigation is likely to be completed in a few weeks, after the inquiries are conducted in the United States, and Olmert gives one final, long testimony.

So long as the inquiry continues, it is impossible to ascertain whether Olmert will ultimately be indicted, they said.

Channel 10 reported a transcript of Olmert's argument with the detectives during his interview a week ago. Olmert accused the police of leaking investigation details to the media.

"The recent affairs are intolerable in any law-abiding state," Olmert admonished the detectives. "You're leaking endlessly, and conducting a media battle beyond any acceptable norm for a decent police force," Olmert said.

He cited reports of Avi Sherman's testimony - Sherman had said he served as Olmert's driver during his visits to New York in the 1990s, and that Olmert sent him to collect cash-filled envelopes from Talansky and other businessmen.

Sherman was interviewed by the media, but the police don't take his story seriously and believe it may be invented. Olmert, however, was furious.

"A nutcase appears ... it doesn't take two minutes to see that he is completely unreliable, and everything is published in the press and it's all done by you," he told police.

National Fraud Unit chief Shlomi Ayalon tried to calm Olmert down. But Olmert cut him off. "I haven't finished, don't interrupt me please."

The detectives, who had only one hour with Olmert, were afraid the prime minister was trying to take up valuable questioning time.

"I'm not taking up any time, this is part of the interrogation," Olmert retorted.

A legal source said yesterday, "It was clear Olmert was taking up interrogation time deliberately. He knew well that the detectives asked for only one hour, and he felt he was waging a power struggle."

"Olmert's approach is strange: A man who has nothing to hide shouldn't change his versions, and is not expected to be upset by media reports. Instead of arguing with the police, he should have given his full explanation to the allegations and thus refuted the suspicions against him," the source said. "But he hasn't."

Later in the interview, Olmert wanted to take back some things he had said in his previous testimony three weeks earlier. Olmrt reportedly realized that his prior testimony, that he did not receive money-filled envelopes from Talansky, would not stand in light of material gathered since then.

"You were unfair to me at the first interview, tried to mislead me completely unfairly," he accused the police. "You asked me questions about money-filled envelopes from Talansky. If you had asked whether Talansky gave me once or twice or three times [money to cover expenses related to matters he was involved in], I wouldn't have denied it. But you didn't ask about that," Olmert said.