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Israeli Police Question PM Olmert for 5th Time

  • Robert Berger

Israel's embattled leader has faced another round of questioning by police in a corruption scandal that forced him to announce his resignation a week ago. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli police questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a fifth time in a session that lasted three hours. Mr. Olmert is suspected of taking tens of thousands of dollars from an American Jewish businessman, who said he gave him envelopes stuffed with cash to support lavish living, including fancy cigars and hotels and first-class airfare. This allegedly occurred when Mr. Olmert was a Cabinet minister and mayor of Jerusalem.

Mr. Olmert is also suspected of double and triple billing institutions for trips abroad and pocketing the difference, during the same 15-year period.

"In this case," says Jerusalem Post Legal Affairs reporter Yaakov Lapin, "we have, according to police sources, direct documentation, indisputable evidence that Olmert held fundraising dinners and asked multiple donors and organizations - some of them charities and some of them government ministries - he asked them for money for the same flight."

Lapin says it is very damaging for the prime minister.

"As far as police are concerned, they're saying this is a smoking gun, Olmert can't get out of it, [and] we're going to have an indictment probably by the end of August," he said.

Mr. Olmert denies any wrongdoing, but under enormous pressure from the public and his own government, he announced last week that he will resign after his Kadima party elects a new leader in September.

Mr. Olmert says he will continue to advance peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria until his last day in office. But analysts say that as a lame duck, he does not have the political clout to sell major territorial concessions to the Israeli public.

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