Olmert: I'll resign if indicted

The police are investigating allegations that the prime minister received large sums from several people.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will resign if an indictment is filed against him. In a statement following the partial lifting of the gagging order on the police investigation of the prime minister, Olmert said, "I look each one of you in the eye and say, I never took bribes, I never put a cent in my own pocket. If Attorney General Meni Mazuz decides to file an indictment, I will resign from my position, even though the law does not oblige me to do so."

Although there is no statutory obligation for the prime minister to resign, the precedent of Aryeh Deri, whom the court forced then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to dismiss from his government when he was charged with taking bribes, probably means that Olmert would in any case have to step down if faced with similar charges.

Olmert is suspected of taking large sums in bribes over several years when he was Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor and earlier as Mayor of Jerusalem. Substantial sums were allegedly received from US tycoon Morris Talansky. Talansky, who is currently in Israel, held a photo op for the press yesterday, but refused to comment on the affair.

The police have said they will question Olmert again about the affair. He was first questioned about it last Friday, on exceptionally short notice. According to a report on Channel 1 television, the police allege that Olmert personally received large amounts of cash in envelopes from several people over the period in question. In his statement, Olmert said that money received from Talansky and others were contributions to political campaigns and were not handled by him personally.

According to Channel 1, two witnesses are assisting the police, and one of them is former Minister of Finance Abraham Hirchson, a long time associate of Olmert, who is himself facing corruption charges. The current investigation of the prime minister began with suspicions that arose from the State Comptroller's examination of the prime minister's purchase of a house in Cremieux Street in Jerusalem. The prime minister is also under investigation over appointments at the Investment Center and the Small Businesses Authority when they were within his ministerial responsibility.

Details of diaries, computer files, and other documents that are the subject of the investigation have not been allowed to be published.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 9, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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