Talansky Lawyers Seeking Israel Testimony Without U.S. Repercussions

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel will meet tomorrow with Morris Talansky's Israeli lawyers in an effort to find a way to allow the American Jewish businessman to complete his testimony in one of the cases against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Talansky has already given his initial testimony and was cross-examined for several days about his claim that he gave Olmert some $150,000 over a period of several years. Last Thursday, however, he announced he would not return for the remainder of his cross-examination, which had been postponed at the request of Olmert's lawyers, because his testimony here could complicate his defense in a grand jury investigation now underway against him in the United States.

Talansky would like Israel's Justice Ministry to reach an immunity deal with its American counterpart under which his testimony here could not be used against him in America. His associates believe that in light of the importance of the case to Israel, the ministry should be able to work something out with Washington.

"I assume it's impossible to force the Americans not to investigate Talansky's affairs, or to close any cases that might be opened against him," explained Yehoshua Reznik, one of Talansky's Israeli attorneys. "But it's possible to try to reach a situation in which what is said during the rest of his questioning will not be used against him there. That seems realistic to us."

But other Israeli jurists said the chances of Israel being able to secure such a deal for Talansky are slim. A senior American legal official also said he doubted the U.S. authorities would agree to such a deal.

If some such deal is not reached, Talansky's lawyers say there is no chance that he will return. "The Israeli case is the reason for the investigation in the U.S.," explained one of his American lawyers, Bradley Simon. "By having him testify in Israel without protecting him, they've put him at risk here."

Should the grand jury find enough evidence to warrant an indictment, the charges Talansky could face in the U.S. include bribing a foreign leader, tax evasion and money laundering.

A grand jury investigation can last 18 months or more. It is not clear when this one began; Talansky's American lawyers apparently learned of its existence when some of the businessman's acquaintances were summoned to testify before it. At that point, they immediately advised him not to return for the rest of his cross-examination.