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Key Witness Testifies Against Olmert in Corruption Scandal

  • Robert Berger

The key figure in a corruption case against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made a dramatic courtroom appearance. His statements could be incriminating, as we hear from Robert Berger at the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky told a Jerusalem court that he gave envelopes stuffed with cash to Ehud Olmert when he was a Cabinet minister and mayor of Jerusalem. Prosecutors suspect that Talanksy gave Mr. Olmert up to $500,000 over a 12-year period.

Mr. Olmert says the money was for campaign contributions, but Talanksy testified that some of it was for personal use and expenses. He said Mr. Olmert was fond of fancy cigars and hotels and liked to fly first class. He said Mr. Olmert wanted all the money in cash and would not accept checks.

Analysts say the testimony could lead to an indictment of Prime Minister Olmert on charges of money laundering, bribery and fraud, though Talanksy said he got nothing in return. He said he gave the money because he admired Mr. Olmert and wanted to help Israel.

The prime minister's lawyer Eli Zohar says he is not worried.

Zohar told reporters it was an incomplete and inaccurate testimony and that the truth would come out during cross-examination.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said it is too early to draw conclusions.

Lador said the investigation is in its early stages and there is no decision yet on whether to issue an indictment.

Mr. Olmert denies any wrongdoing, but he says if he is indicted, he will resign. But that is not imminent. The investigation is expected to go on for months.