Olmert denies conflict of interest

Israel’s prime minister denied allegations he used his office to direct business to a friend.

In an appearance before a Knesset committee, Ehud Olmert rejected allegations in the state comptroller’s report that a conflict of interest spurred him to provide a $10 million business grant to a close friend.

Olmert defended his intervention on behalf of a factory represented by his friend and former business partner Ori Masar, saying the intervention of a government minister on the part of industry is “part of the job.”

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss responded, “The report dealt with the issue of whether it is proper for the friend of a minister acting as the representative of a factory. We have here the involvement of a friend of yours that you possibly wanted to help to advance his projects. A prudent action on your part would have been to politely decline and transfer the matter to a different minister in the government, one without a personal relationship with the representative.”

At the time Olmert provided the grant he was Israel’s minister of industry, trade and labor.

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