Ori Lewis and Rebecca Harrison
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Israeli police accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of fraud on Friday and said a probe into alleged bribe-taking had been widened to look at whether he made duplicate claims for travel expenses.
Police and prosecutors said they asked the Israeli leader during questioning on Friday to “give his account about suspicions of serious fraud and other offences”, which involved him billing different public bodies for the same trips abroad.
Police questioned Olmert for the third time on Friday as part of an investigation into allegations he took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky. Olmert has said he did nothing wrong in his dealings the New York Jewish fundraiser but has promised to step down if formally indicted.
(Article continues below)
The investigation could hamper U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians if Olmert is forced to quit.
“According to the suspicions, during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor and trade and industry minister, Olmert would seek duplicate funding for his trips abroad from public bodies, including from the state, with each of them requested to fund the same trip,” the statement from police and prosecutors said.
Police suspect Olmert’s travel agency issued multiple invoices for trips then transferred the surplus money into a bank account in his name which it managed on his behalf. The funds were used for Olmert’s private trips, the statement said.
Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev repeated the prime minister was “convinced of his innocence”, which he said would become apparent as the investigation continued.
This article was posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 3:03 am