Olmert faces crim­i­nal probe


IS­RAELI PRIME Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert asked the po­lice on Wed­nes­day to con­duct as quickly as pos­si­ble their crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that he il­le­gally at­tempted to in­flu­ence the sale of Bank Leumi when serv­ing as fi­nance min­is­ter.

State Pros­e­cu­tor Eran Shen­dar de­cided to launch a crim­i­nal probe into the sale af­ter ques­tion­ing a num­ber of peo­ple in­volved in the deal. Mr Olmert is sus­pected of an al­leged breach of trust by at­tempt­ing to change the de­tails of the sale’s ten­der in favour of Aus­tralian busi­ness­man Frank Lowy. In fact, Mr Lowy did not buy the bank.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be han­dled by the na­tional fraud squad. Mr Olmert has in­sisted that he acted prop­erly dur­ing the sale, not­ing that the sale process had been ap­proved by Bank of Is­rael gov­er­nor, Stan­ley Fis­cher, and the Fi­nance Min­istry’s le­gal ad­viser.

The Trea­sury’s ac­coun­tant-gen­eral, Dr Yaron Zelichah, has mean­while been as­signed a body­guard af­ter his wife re­ceived a threat­en­ing phone call. Dr Zelichah was the of­fi­cial who first ques­tioned Mr Olmert’s ac­tions dur­ing the Leumi sale and he has re­peat­edly warned of cor­rup­tion within Is­rael’s gov­ern­ing elite.

Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert meet­ing US Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice in Is­rael this week

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