Olmert corruption trial begins


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserted his innocence at the start of his trial on corruption charges.

"Several months ago, when I came here for the first time, I said that I came as an innocent man and that I would leave as an innocent man," Olmert said Thursday morning upon his arrival at the Jerusalem District Court. "Today the bombastic declarations, plastic descriptions and personal slander end."

Olmert is on trial in three cases: for allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; for allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky; and for allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case.

The ex-Israeli leader is charged with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion.

Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister to stand trial. He resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted.

Olmert’s office manager, Shula Zaken, is a co-defendant in one of the cases.

Jerusalem District Prosecutor Attorney Eli Abarbanel acknowledged in his opening statement that there were problems with the testimony given by Talansky, who allegedly gave Olmert envelopes containing thousands of dollars over a period of several years. 

“Not a crumb of his word has been proven,” Abarbanel said. “Talansky has no interest in harming Olmert; he’s not delusional.”

" There were envelopes. Regarding the monetary amounts there is disagreement, but regarding the envelopes there is not."

The main prosecutor in the case, Jerusalem District Prosecutor Uri Korb, went on leave last week for an unannounced period of time at the request of the Justice Ministry following the publication of insulting statements he made about judges and attorneys associated with the ministry while teaching a college seminar. Korb reportedly knows the prosecution’s case the best.

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