Israel's attorney general says he'll indict Olmert

By AMY TEIBEL – 1 day ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's attorney general notified Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday that he plans to indict him on suspicion of illicitly taking cash-stuffed envelopes from a Jewish-American businessman — a sensational case that turned public opinion so sharply against the Israeli leader that he was forced to resign.

Olmert would become the first Israeli prime minister ever indicted.

Before a decision on an indictment is made, Olmert will have one last chance to try to persuade Attorney General Meni Mazuz not to charge him, Mazuz said in a news release. The attorney general is already considering bringing Olmert to trial in a second corruption investigation.

Five corruption investigations are pending against Olmert in all, and he has denied wrongdoing in each one. His spokesman Amir Dan predicted Sunday that the charges would "disappear in the end."

The sight of police cars arriving at Olmert's official residence has become routine, with police questioning him 16 times in recent months in connection with the various investigations.

All the investigations predate his becoming prime minister in January 2006, when he was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry and trade.

The most stunning of the allegations came from Morris Talansky, a 76-year-old New York businessman who testified in an Israeli court last year that he handed envelopes stuffed with tens of thousands of dollars to Olmert, in part to help finance a luxurious lifestyle of expensive hotels and fat cigars.

Olmert has said the funds were legal campaign contributions. But Talansky's testimony did major political damage, shredding the little credibility Olmert had left with the Israeli public after the flawed 2006 war in Lebanon and prompting his resignation in September.

He has remained in office pending the formation within the next few weeks of a new government after Israel's Feb. 10 parliamentary election.

Mazuz said Olmert abused his public position to reap monetary benefits from Talansky and to help Talansky with his business ventures. If indicted, charges would include fraud and breach of confidence, the statement said.

In late November, Mazuz notified Olmert that he was considering indicting him in a separate case, where he is suspected of double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad, then pocketing the difference or financing trips for relatives. Olmert's lawyers are scheduled for a final hearing before Mazuz in that case April 19. The attorney general then will decide whether to indict.

No date has been announced for a hearing in the Talansky affair.

Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen said officials would consider bundling multiple indictments in a single trial if Olmert is charged in more than one investigation.

Olmert is also being investigated in connection with a real estate deal and political appointments.

Allegations of corruption have swirled around Olmert throughout his three-decade political career, but he has never been convicted of a crime.