Police Pressing Yossi Olmert to Uncover Holyland Money Trail

The police have asked Yossi Olmert, former prime minister Ehud Olmert's brother, to waive his privilege of lawyer-client confidentiality so that they can review thousands of documents seized from the office of his Israeli lawyer, Ronen Matalon.

Yossi Olmert currently lives in New York, so the request was conveyed last week via American law enforcement officials.

The raid on Matalon's office was authorized by the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court as part of the police's efforts to trace bribe money that they suspect was paid to Ehud Olmert in the Holyland case. That case, which has not yet resulted in an indictment, involves alleged bribes that real estate developers paid to numerous officials to promote various projects, including the Holyland luxury apartment complex in Jerusalem.

Police were specifically interested in two sets of documents from Matalon's office. One related to a 2004 deal in which Ehud Olmert and two of his brothers bought out Yossi's share in a Binyamina property that the four had inherited jointly. The other related to Yossi Olmert's bankruptcy filing, due to debts to dozens of creditors that totaled over NIS 3 million in 2004.

A law enforcement official involved in the case said police are seeking to determine whether some of the money Yossi received as part of the Binyamina sale was not bribe money that Ehud Olmert had been paid and then laundered via this seemingly legitimate deal. They also want to determine whether laundered bribe money played any role in Yossi's bankruptcy proceedings.

So far, Yossi Olmert has not agreed to waive his confidentiality, so the documents remain in a sealed envelope in police headquarters. In a telephone conversation with Haaretz yesterday, he denied having even received such a request.

Ehud and Yossi Olmert have been at odds for the last several years and communicate mainly through their lawyers. A source close to the family said that "police are exploiting the complicated family situation," and "especially his shaky relationship with his brother Ehud, to find a weak spot in Yossi."

The source added that police may well be hoping to use the brothers' tense relationship to encourage Yossi Olmert to tell them everything he knows about his brother - which, if it happened, could significantly advance the investigation.

It is even possible, the source said, that the prosecution will offer Yossi financial assistance if he agrees to return to Israel and cooperate with the probe against his brother.

Close associates of Yossi Olmert have said over the past few days that he intends to come to Israel soon. But in his conversation with Haaretz last night, he denied having had any contact with the police and prosecution, via either his Israeli or his American lawyer, regarding his possible return to Israel. Should he wish to return, he added, there is no legal barrier to his doing so; he does not need any kind of deal with the Israeli authorities.

Matalon, who is thought to be well regarded by both Olmert brothers, said last night that "attorney-client privilege is in the hands of the client, and only the client can decide whether to waive it."