Police recommend indicting PM Ehud Olmert on corruption charges
The Israeli police decided Sun. Sept. 7 that it has sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on two cases of corruption pre-dating his present incumbency.
Their recommendation was referred to Attorney General Menahem Maziz, who alone is competent to indict a prime minister and who has two weeks to reach a decision. The case then goes to the prosecution.
The most severe charges of bribe-taking, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering refer to his receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US financier Morris Talansky over 15 years, often in cash envelopes.
In the second case, he is alleged to have fraudulently double-billed public organizations for his foreign trips through the Rishon Tours travel agency and used the surplus funds to pay for his and his family’s trips abroad.
More investigations are still pending.
The prime minister says he is innocent of all charges and will prove it in court, his advisers emphasize.
The prime minister’s lawyers criticized the police for pre-determining the attorney general’s decision on an indictment. They said that many past cases which grabbed headlines were inflated by the police and boiled down to very little when they came to court.
Olmert has already said he would resign as prime minister as soon as his Kadima party chooses a successor on Sept. 17 – or Sept. 25, if a second round is necessary.
Olmert was never a popular prime minister, especially after his heavily criticized management of the 2006 Lebanon War. His political life is effectively over. He may now go down in history as the first officiating prime minister of Israel to be prosecuted on criminal charges.
Israel, while under multiple security threats, faces several months of political turmoil. The next Kadima leader faces an uphill task in forming a government coalition. Failure portends an early general election some time at the beginning of 2009.