View Full Version : Talansky Lands In Israel Ahead Of Cross-Examination In Olmert Probe

07-10-2008, 08:10 AM
Talansky lands in Israel ahead of cross-examination in Olmert probe


By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent

Jewish American businessman Morris (Moshe) Talansky arrived in Israel on Wednesday, a week before he was scheduled to appear for a cross-examination as a key witness in a graft investigation being conducted against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Talansky, who appeared before the Jerusalem District Court last month to give his initial deposition, was to be cross examined by Olmert's attorneys on July 17, but Channel 2 reported Wednesday that the questioning may be postponed.

Sources close to Olmert said last week that the cross-examination would not stir sensatio. Contrary to what others close to the prime minister have been saying, the source said the cross-examination "is not expected to generate a revolution or drama."

Meanwhile, Sharon Tzur, a former Likud activist who was considered close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is one of the key people summoned to give a deposition to the Israel Police in the investigation it is conducting in the United States in the corruption case against Olmert.

The prime minister is suspected of having illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Talansky over the course of 15 years.

Tzur, 36, is suspected to have been present in the hotel suite with Olmert on at least one occasion when cash-filled envelopes changed hands.

Tzur founded and runs Media Watch International, an organization that seeks to promote pro-Israel views in the American media. American Jewish businessman Ronald Lauder is one of the organization's major donors.

Another person from whom police are soliciting testimony in the U.S. is political consultant Zev Furst. Police want to know whether any of the money that Talansky gave Olmert made its way to Furst.

Law enforcement sources said that Tzur's name came up repeatedly during their initial inquiries into the Talansky affair, but upon further investigation, none of the information seemed to indicate that she was truly involved in the case; therefore, they decided to focus on Talansky.

However, Talansky himself mentioned Tzur's name several times during his interrogations by the police, saying that she had been present in one of the hotel rooms where he handed Olmert an envelope containing thousands of dollars in cash. Police are therefore hoping that she can confirm Talansky's story.

Tzur's response could not be obtained Tuesday night. Her office in New York said she was on vacation and could not be reached.

Tzur was born in Canada and moved to Israel at age 7 with her mother. Her grandfather, Zvi Rosenblatt, was one of the people accused of the murder in 1933 of Haim Arlosoroff, a politician from Mapai, the forerunner of the Labor Party.

In 2000, the local paper Iton Tel Aviv ran a profile of Tzur in which it described a meeting in the office of then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, at which she, Olmert, Uzi Landau, Roni Milo and Natan Sharansky were present.

This past May, an investigative report in Haaretz Magazine revealed that Tzur paid a hotel bill for Olmert and his wife, Aliza, at a luxury hotel on New York's Fifth Avenue, the Peninsula. At the time, Olmert was minister of industry, trade and employment. He was in New York to attend an exhibition by his wife, a well-known artist.

The report revealed that in April 2005, the Olmerts stayed in a luxury suite whose normal price was $2,600 a night. However, thanks to Olmert's friendship with billionaire Michael Kadoorie, one of the hotel's owners, they were given the suite for $500 a night. Thus the final tab came to $2,200 - and it was paid by Tzur and MWI.

Tzur claimed at the time that Olmert was being hosted by MWI during that trip because while he was there, he participated in eight meetings on the organization's behalf.

The three-man Israeli police team now in the U.S. is planning to conduct depositions in New York, Washington and Las Vegas in the hope of finding documents and testimony that support Talansky's story. They will visit Talansky's office, the bank from which he withdrew the money that he gave Olmert, and the hotels at which he met Olmert.

Since the information they have amassed has not yet been sent back to Israel, the police and prosecution have not yet had a chance to examine it in depth. But the reports they have sent back since arriving about 10 days ago indicate that the material they have found does support the suspicions against Olmert.

"We have no doubt that in the coming days, 'spins' of one sort or another will be published about the case," said a law enforcement official. "So we must state clearly: The investigators' work is progressing as it should. It is impossible at this stage to say that the suspicions against Olmert have been disproven. On the other hand, it would be highly unserious to say at this stage whether an indictment will be filed against him and what it might look like."

However, other sources said that the case against Olmert is solidifying thanks to the testimony collected in recent weeks.

Olmert himself will be questioned by the police again this Friday, under caution. At this session, he will be confronted with the new material gathered over the last few weeks, both in the U.S. and through questioning additional suspects and witnesses in Israel. In particular, he will be shown evidence indicating that contrary to his previous assertions, he made personal use of some of the money he received from Talansky.

Olmert has said the money was used solely for his electoral campaigns.

This will be Olmert's third interrogation since the Talansky affair broke, and it is expected to take only about two hours. Its main purpose is to "lock" him into an account before he has a chance to thoroughly examine the new material and adjust his story accordingly.

Olmert adviser: Police using media leaks to coach Talansky ahead of cross examination

Olmert's associates said Wednesday that the State Prosecutor's Office and the police were leaking confidential details from the corruption investigation against Olmert in efforts to coach the prosecution's key witness ? Talansky.

The prime minister's media adviser, Amir Dan, said Wednesday "in recent days the police are using a reprehensible tactic of coaching witnesses and coordinating stories via habitual and selective leaks to the press of investigation materials. The police are not permitted to speak with Talansky until he is cross examined, and they have found a way to "circumvent" this prohibition by transferring messages to him [in the media] before his cross examination next week. The transfer of messages to Talansky in this way is expected to continue ahead of his imminent testimony, and I won't be surprised if they include details from the questioning of the prime minister on Friday."