U.S. businessman Talansky back in Israel testifying against Olmert

JERUSALEM (JTA) — American businessman Morris Talansky testified that he transferred $30,000 to the brother of Ehud Olmert following a request by the former prime minister.

Talansky testified Sunday in Tel Aviv District Court in the Holyland trial that he transferred the money to Yossi Olmert, who was ailing financially, after he was asked by Ehud Olmert. The Holyland Affair is considered Israel’s largest-ever corruption scandal.

Olmert, through his attorneys, has denied that he asked Talansky for money for his brother.

Olmert is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem when he was mayor of the city and then Israel’s trade minister.

Seventeen others have been indicted in the case, including his bureau chief, Shula Zaken, and Olmert’s successor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski.

It was Talansky’s first testimony in an Israeli court since 2008, when he told the Jerusalem District Court that he had provided Olmert with envelopes filled with cash in what was labeled the Talansky Affair.

Last July, the Jerusalem court acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in what became known as the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs.

He was found guilty for breach of trust in the Investment Center case for granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when Olmert served as trade minister. Olmert was sentenced to one to three years of probation and a fine of approximately $19,000.

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