Olmert's Benefactor Gives Deposition

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - American businessman Morris Talansky began his pre-trial deposition Tuesday morning at the Jerusalem District Court.

Talansky's testimony, which can be used as legal testimony should the State Prosecutor's Office indict Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on bribery charges, may take up to three days to finish.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador began the questioning by asking Talansky to tell the three-judge panel about his relationship with Olmert.

After providing the court with some details of how they met during a family visit to Israel in 1991, Talansky said that Olmert asked him then for cash contributions to fund his campaign for mayor of Jerusalem. Olmert said contributions should be in cash rather than checks because of the way the money was routed.

"So I gave him cash," Talansky said. "I used to cash checks written to my account and give him the cash," he said.

Talansky then provided detailed accounts of cash he'd given Olmert over the years.

Often, he loaned large sums of money -- $5,000 for a three-day stay at a Washington hotel, $15,000 at a hotel in New York to attend his grandson's brit milah (circumcision ceremony), $30,000 for a family vacation in Italy -- among other occasions, but none of the funds were ever repaid.

Talansky testified that he'd given Olmert some $150,000 from his own pocket, in addition to funds he raised for him over the years.

"I kept funneling funds through [Omert's former bureau chief] Shula Zaken until 2005, including when he was trade, industry and labor minister," he said.

"I gave it to Shula Zaken, but I remember he was with her at least once. I gave the money in envelopes, but no more than $8,000 or $9,000 [at a time]. Back in the States, I also gave him money directly," he said.

Asked if he knew how Olmert spent the funds, Talansky said, "Shula always said he had expenses. Olmert said the funds were used for primary expenses. He explained that it was just like when you run for elections, that you need [to pay for] flyers, posters, campaign staff, etc.," he said.

"When he traveled, they would only give him business class seats and not first class seats. I know some of the money was spent on that," he said.

"I only know that he loved expensive cigars. I know he loved pens, watches. I found it strange," Talansky testified.

According to some analysts, attorneys consider a pre-trial deposition a rare legal maneuver. During the course of the deposition, the defense can object to the state prosecutor's questions, but the witness must still answer the question.

Objections by the defense are not taken into account until the verdict stage of a future trial.

Meanwhile, police firmly denied allegations that they leaked details of the investigation to the press.

"We firmly deny, and view with severity, any attempt to hold us responsible for the leaks from the investigation and pass them on, due to various interests," a police statement read.

Former senior police investigator Moshe Mizrachi said the prime minister's legal staff and spin doctors leaked statements to discredit Talansky's testimony.

"The prime minister's lawyers are feeding the media spin," Mizrachi said. "It is not the police who are releasing details from Talansky's interrogations. Olmert's lawyers are making Talansky out to be someone who is shooting in every direction. They are trying to question his credibility on the eve of Talanksy's testimony in court," he said Monday.

Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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