No sooner had former Kadima government finance minister Avraham Hirschson been sentenced to 5 years and 5 months for theft of public funds (among other things) and former Shas Party Health, Labor and Welfare minister Shlomo Benizri lost his bribery appeal (and got sentenced for more than twice the original period of 18 months), millionaire investor Morris Talansky was back in Israel to testify in the continuing investigations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is facing a number of charges, including being accused of taking more than $300,000 that Talansky was said to have contributed to Olmert’s mayoral campaign in Jerusalem.
Olmert’s legal problems are a bit different now than they were when Talanasky last appeared in Israel to answer questions concerning the monies he gave to the former prime minister; especially since Olmert is now a private citizen, and as such no longer has the immunity he had as Prime Minister. Talansky himself is under investigation in the USA under suspicion that he illegally transferred large sums of money to Israel under the guise of the money being “contributions”. Besides the noted sum that Talansky is said to have “contributed” to Olmert’s mayoral campaign, there is also the matter of a sum of $150,000 that he is said to have given to Olmert over a period o f years, and used by Olmert for his own personal benefit, including upgrading hotel rooms during trips abroad.
Talansky is under suspicion by American authorities of using his relationship with Olmert to transfer funds illegally to Israel. He noted to reporters that he had been warned against returning to Israel, but felt that he needed to set the record straight. One of the big questions concerning Talansky’s relationship with Olmert was whether Olmert obtained the funds under false pretenses, and whether part of it had been considered to be a bribe. For his part, Talansky only agreed to return to Israel to testify after an agreement had been reached with both Israeli and American authorities in order that his testimony would not incriminate him by returning to Israel.
With two of his former ministers already going “up river” will the former prime minister also be heading in that same direction? Or is he clever enough to find a way out with only a slight “slap on the wrist”. Corruption seems to be becoming more commonplace among government officials and politicians these days, and even former P.M. Ariel Sharon might have had so face similar counts (that led to his son Omri serving a short prison term for miss-use of campaign funds) had Sharon not suffered a severe stroke in January 2006 that has left him comatose and totally incapacitated.