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Monday, June 05, 2006 

Olmert's pen scandal

Ehud Olmert, who's - get this - a pen collector, illegally took pens worth thousands. From Israel National News, here's a report first published on NFC:
Olmert allegedly paid for his Jerusalem luxury apartment less than half than what another apartment in the same building cost, per meter. He is also accused of accepting pens worth thousands.

Investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchak, who edits the Hebrew news site NewsFirstClass, has once again come out with evidence of possible bribe-taking and wrongful use of influence on the part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The matter is currently under investigation by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, whose office has questioned 25 witnesses so far.

The allegations can be summed up as follows: Olmert paid $3,306 per meter to buy a luxury Jerusalem apartment, while another potential buyer was told he would have to pay the equivalent of some $7,000 per meter for an apartment in the same building. Olmert's purchase totaled $1.2 million, while the other man was quoted a total of $1.3 million, for a much smaller apartment of lesser quality.

The potential buyer, Binyamin Friedberg, told Yitzchak that he visited the site of the building on Carmiya St., a few blocks from Liberty Bell Park, in April or May of 2005. Friedberg said that the developer, Gil Mestei, offered him an apartment in the building for $1.3 million - just a few months after Olmert had paid the much lower price.

Yitzchak alleges that the difference in price represents a bribe, in view of Olmert's alleged activity with city officials on behalf of Mestei. Yitzchak claims that Olmert helped convince them to raze the city-declared historic landmark that had stood there before, and to allow Mestei to double the number of units.

In addition, Yoav Yitzchak also accuses Olmert of obstructing justice and a police investigation by "removing from his house 240 expensive fountain pens that he received as bribes."

Yitzchak alleges that Olmert, a known pen-collector, received the pens from dozens of people over the course of the past few years, when he served as Mayor of Jerusalem and Minister of Trade, among other positions. The pens are worth between 1,500 and 25,000 shekels each, for a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A complaint was submitted to Attorney General Mazuz and the State Comptroller on the matter by the Ometz anti-corruption organization.
The Labor Party's minister, Shalom Simchon, has also come under recommendation for indictment:
Comptroller Lindenstrauss has also recommended of late that Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon of the Labor Party be indicted. Simchon is alleged to have received free flights stays for himself, his children and their friends from the C.A.L. company, which provides air transportation for agricultural produce. Simchon himself also received free hotel stays in Europe from C.A.L., the Comptroller found. The accusations relate to the period when Simchon was not a minister, but rather a Knesset Member. He was elected to the Labor Party list of Knesset candidates on the "moshavim" (agricultural cooperative communities) slot.
Yes, he should be indicted as well. As for Olmert, I'd say he can take his pen bribes and use them to sign his resignation before returning them.

About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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