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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Inquiry hears how Israeli premier had 'envelopes of cash' which he spent on hotels, flights and luxury goods

DAILY MAIL ONLINE : 28th May 2008

By Matthew Kalman

A businessman has told a corruption inquiry how he handed cash-stuffed envelopes to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Morris Talansky, a Jewish-American, said he suspected some of the money was spent on fine hotels, first-class flights and luxury goods for the politician.

The revelations are likely to further hurt Mr Olmert, whose affairs have been investigated four times by police since he took office in 2006.

Ehud Olmert
Morris Talansky

Ehud Olmert (left) has had his affairs investigated four time by police while Morris Talansky (right) has said he handed him 'envelopes of cash'

Mr Talansky, 75, described handing over £75,000 at meetings in New York and Jerusalem over a 15-year period.

He said there was no record of how the money was spent.

'I only know that he loved expensive cigars. I know he loved pens, watches. I found t strange,' he said.

In at least one case, Mr Talansky said he used his personal credit card to pay a £2,500 hotel bill for Mr Olmert's three-day stay at the Ritz Carlton in Washington in 2004.

The politician called him to say his own credit card was 'maxed out', he said.

Police believe Mr Olmert took up to £250,000 from Mr Talansky in illegal campaign contributions or bribes before becoming premier.

Morris Talansky

Jewish-American businessman Morris Talansky, second right, arrives at the court in Jerusalem

Mr Olmert's lawyer Eli Zohar labelled the testimony 'twisted' and said the truth would be revealed in his crossexamination set for July 17.

The prime minister, 62, has not been indicted for corruption but has promised to step down if he is.

His downfall would dash U.S-backed efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to work out a peace agreement by the end of the year.

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