Olmert Under Investigation / U.S. Fundraiser Talansky to Begin Deposition in Olmert Case Today

Morris Talansky, the American fundraiser suspected of making large cash transfers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is slated to begin his early deposition to the Jerusalem District Court this morning.

Talansky will testify on behalf of the prosecution today, and defense attorneys for Olmert and his former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, will be able to cross-examine the witness the following day. However, the defense lawyers said Friday that they will not cross-examine Talansky now, because they claim they have not been given sufficient time to examine the material collected by police investigators in the case.

The defense has said it would like Talansky to return to Israel at a later date, probably in July, for his cross-examination.

The court decided last week that Olmert and Zaken would not have to be present in court during Talansky's deposition, though the State Prosecutor's Office had sought to compel their presence, arguing that their response during the testimony would offer the judges some insight into the case.

In his deposition today, Talansky will be asked about his relationship with Olmert and their meetings, both in Israel and abroad, as well as his relationship with Zaken and Olmert's former partner, attorney Uri Messer. He will also be asked about people who contributed funds to Olmert that Talansky is suspected of having transferred through Zaken. In addition, he will be asked about the dates when the alleged transfers were made, as well as the purpose of the funds.

However, the most important bit of evidence prosecutors would like to obtain from Talansky is whether he received something in return for the cash transfers, which are suspected to have been large and numerous.

During the High Court of Justice's deliberations last week on a petition by Olmert and Zaken against Talansky's planned deposition, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador revealed evidence that he said supports the allegations against the prime minister.

Lador said that during Olmert's terms as both Jerusalem mayor and minister of industry and trade, he maintained close ties with American Jewish leaders. Talansky was actively involved in fundraising and organizing meetings with Israeli public figures, and as a result of his close relations with Olmert, he organized events for his friend.

Lador also told the court that according to the testimony Talansky gave to police investigators, he handed Olmert envelopes full of cash during short meetings between the two. According to this testimony, the requests for money came from Olmert, who also dictated the sums.

Lador said that Olmert is suspected of fraud, breach of trust, tax violations and violations of the Gifts Law. He is also suspected of not reporting his receipts of cash while he was minister of industry and trade, as required by law. Lador was careful not to say that Olmert was suspected of receiving bribes, but hinted that "if there is a reason for the money transfers, if something was offered in return, then this may be significant."