Under Scrutiny in Olmert Corruption Trial: Value of the Ex-prime Minister's Pens

How much is Ehud Olmert's pen collection worth? That question was at the center of yesterday's hearing in the former prime minister's corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court.

Olmert had valued his pens at NIS 140,000 for the state comptroller, but prosecutors maintain the collection is actually worth NIS 1.3 million.

Ehud Olmert
Daniel Bar-On

The former premier is charged with receiving an item through fraud under aggravated circumstances, an offense carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Art appraiser Yoram Breier told the court yesterday that the collection he had evaluated at Olmert's home included about 1,200 pens, of which the average price was $200 and the most expensive $3,000.

The total property value of items in the house amounted to NIS 2.3 million, Breier said, including jewelry, clothing and paintings by the former prime minister's wife, the artist Aliza Olmert.

If that assessment is correct, the pen collection represents about 60 percent of the value of items in the Olmert home.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Roy Blecher revealed that the pens' value as indicated in the indictment was inaccurate, as the collection would be priced differently in the event that it needed to be replenished (for example, if it were lost ).

The free-market price, he said, is significantly lower than its cost as originally appraised, amounting to just a third of the worth set by the appraiser.

Before his cross-examination, Blecher said, Olmert considered selling the collection and sent it to Fountain Pen Hospital, a prestigious luxury pen retailer in New York, for a price evaluation. Appraisers there judged the collection to be worth no more than $70,000.

Defense attorneys maintained that the collection includes no more than 444 pens, rather than the over 1,000 that Breier said he had found.