PM's Aides: 'No-show' Talansky Is Unreliable

Morris Talansky's announcement that he will not return to Israel for the continuation of a corruption probe into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proves that the state's key witness is unreliable, Olmert's associates charged yesterday.

The American Jewish businessman's decision was announced earlier yesterday by his attorneys in Israel, who were informed of it by his attorneys in the United States. He consulted his attorneys before reaching the decision.

Talansky is the state's key witness in what has been dubbed the "cash-filled envelopes" affair - suspicions that Olmert illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Talansky over the course of 15 years.

"This shows who Talansky is, how much he can be trusted and how much he can be relied on," an associate of Olmert's told Channel 10. "Talansky is scared, because the main point of the story isn't the money he transferred to the prime minister, but other money that he has a reason to hide."

Talansky's U.S. lawyers, Bradley D. Simon and Neal M. Sher, explained that Talansky's decision not to come back to Israel for further questioning stems from their client's desire not to incriminate himself in a grand jury investigation now being conducted against him in New York.

An Olmert spokesman, Amir Dan, said the premier's lawyers would consider the "serious consequences" of Talansky's decision. He asserted that the case against Olmert was falling apart.

Simon and Sher wrote their Israeli counterparts that "it is our understanding that the New York federal investigation mirrors in many respects the matters at issue in the Israeli investigation ... By cooperating with Israeli authorities, Mr. Talansky has placed himself in legal jeopardy in the United States."

The U.S. attorneys wrote that while their client remained committed to cooperating with Israeli prosecutors, they had advised him not to appear for further questioning in Israel until the U.S. grand jury matter is resolved. They added his testimony in Israel could be used against him in the U.S.

One of Talansky's Israeli attorneys, Yehoshua Reznik, said it was State Prosecutor Moshe Lador's duty to defend Talansky from the legal proceedings against him in the U.S. He said the prosecution must make it clear to the Americans that Talansky was promised that no harm would befall him if he testified in Israel.

Reznik added that Talansky had intended to complete his deposition in Israel, but the opening of the investigation against him in the U.S. altered the situation.