Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Police question Israeli PM in new probe

ALLEGATIONS Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces the fifth investigation against him since he took office, this time for alleged deals made while industry and trade minister

AFP , JERUSALEM

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gestures during a parliament session in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was set to be questioned yesterday for a second time in three weeks in the latest corruption probe against him, which has stirred calls for his resignation.

Anti-fraud squad officers were due to begin questioning him at 10am.

Police are seeking to establish whether Olmert dispensed any favors in exchange for allegedly illegal funds he received from millionaire US financier Morris Talansky during the 13 years before he became prime minister in 2006.

The state prosecutor believes Olmert received US$100,000 in cash from Talansky, and police are looking at money transfers that could have been used to finance private trips when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and then trade and industry minister.

The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing but admitted he received money from Talansky to help finance his election campaigns in 1999 and 2003.

“I have never taken a bribe, nor have I unlawfully pocketed money,” he told a news conference earlier this month, denouncing what he called a “hysterical” campaign against him.

Olmert was first questioned in the case on May 2, and state prosecutors plan to have Talansky testify under oath before a judge tomorrow.

Police are looking into allegations that while he was industry and trade minister, Olmert contacted an Israeli diplomat in a Latin American country asking him to promote a technological project in which Talansky was a partner, the Maariv daily reported yesterday.

He also is alleged to have promoted the sale to hotels of minibars produced by a Talansky factory.

The prime minister’s political opponents say he should resign, or at least step down pending the outcome of the investigation — the fifth to be conducted against him since he took office.

Palestinian officials have expressed fears that the affair could affect the Middle East peace process.

Even Olmert’s closest political allies have raised the possibility of elections later this year, about 12 months ahead of schedule.

Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Israelis believe Olmert should step down, and he has said he would quit if charges were pressed against him.

Olmert is the subject of three more probes into suspected corruption involving potential conflicts of interest, fraudulent property transactions and abuse of power in connection with political appointments.

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