The Heat is definitely being turned up in the bribery probe of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Two more Americans with money were questioned today as part of the widening investigation, Sheldon Adelson and Daniel Abrahams. At the same time some of the accusations against the PM were starting to leak out including the possibility that Olmert used his influence to pressure Jerusalem officials to place speed bumps on the street where Talansky’s children and grandchildren live, among other things:
U.S. tycoon Sheldon Adelson quizzed as part of Olmert probe By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Fraud squad detectives on Tuesday questioned American real estate mogul Sheldon Adelson in connection to the new corruption investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Adelson, 73, earned his fortune developing huge hotel, convention and gambling properties in Las Vegas and, recently, in China. The billionaire was asked whether Olmert had requested he acquire for his hotels mini-bars marketed by the key witness in the probe, American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, from whom the prime minister is suspected of illicitly accepting large sums of cash. Adelson is one of the owners of the free Israeli daily Israel Hayom paper and is considered a close associate of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. It also emerged on Tuesday that Police on Monday questioned U.S. businessman Daniel Abrahams in connection to the affair. Earlier Tuesday, National Fraud Unit detectives also raided the Ministry of Trade and Industry in a bid to find documents in the widening corruption investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said investigators from the fraud squad raided the offices in connection with the Olmert investigation. Olmert headed the ministry from 2003 to 2006, before he became prime minister. Some of the donations by Talansky are believed to have taken place during Olmert’s 10-year tenure as mayor of Jerusalem. On Monday, police raided the offices of the Jerusalem municipality, also searching for evidence in the probe. Detectives Monday were looking for evidence that during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor, Olmert had given Talansky benefits or other assistance in exchange for bribes. Rosenfeld said fraud squad detectives had seized documents that were connected to Olmert’s tenure as mayor from 1993 to 2003, but had no further details on their contents. Police are also looking for material indicating that Olmert had instructed city officials to act for Talansky even after Olmert left the mayor’s office to become industry, trade and employment minister. Olmert is suspected, among other things, of using his influence to pressure Jerusalem officials to place speed bumps on the street where Talansky’s children and grandchildren live, at Talansky’s request. The fraud squad on Monday questioned Talansky again over the affair. Sources involved in the probe told Haaretz that the investigation was currently focused on Olmert’s tenure as industry and trade minister in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon not on the mayoral election campaigns in which Olmert participated, the funding for which he said he had received from Talansky. The sources said that so far police have not found evidence that Talansky had received anything from Olmert that could be seen as an exchange for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the American fund-raiser had reportedly given Olmert over the years. Police do not rule out the possibility that Talansky had given Olmert the money without asking for anything specific in return, perhaps expecting Olmert to advance his business interests in Israel at some point in the future. Talansky denies having any business in Israel or plans to conduct business in Israel in the future. Police sources said the search in the municipality could lead to documents that would shed a light on the transactions between Talansky and Olmert over the years. However, Haaretz has also learned that the debts of an organization that campaigned for Olmert’s election as mayor of Jerusalem were covered from the funds received from Talansky. The police were surprised on Monday to learn of Olmert’s scheduled trips to the United States at the end of the month and to Egypt. They fear that Olmert’s tight schedule, including hosting U.S. President George Bush this week, will leave no time to question the prime minister thoroughly before Talansky gives his early testimony, scheduled in two weeks. The detectives had hoped to use Olmert’s testimony to corroborate the suspicions against him on the basis of Talansky’s testimony. Talansky is expected to leave Israel on May 21. “If it is not possible to receive Olmert’s in-depth testimony before the court hears Talansky’s early testimony, our chances of examining the suspicions against Olmert and establishing sufficient evidence will be severely impaired,” a source close to the investigation said on Monday.