Israeli police grill Olmert over new campaign fund allegations

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The Independent Online

Police have opened a new investigation into the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, by questioning him over his alleged receipt of campaign donations from an American resident several years before he became Prime Minister.

Mr Olmert was questioned at his official residence about what his office said were donations raised by a United States citizen intended to fund elections for the mayoralty of Jerusalem and primary elections in the party he then belonged to, Likud.

Mr Olmert, a former mayor of Jerusalem, is already the subject of other investigations, including into allegations that he may have dispensed favours in return for a discount on the purchase of his private home in Jerusalem, and that he may have appointed allies to a state business authority while he was Industry minister.

In November, police recommended dropping a further investigation into allegations that he had tried to favour political supporters in the allocation of buyers during the privatisation of the Bank Leumi.

A statement from Mr Olmert's office said that he "answered all of the investigators' questions on the subject, and will continue to co-operate with all legal authorities to the extent he is required to do so".

It added that Mr Olmert was "convinced that with the discovery of the truth in the police investigation, the suspicions against him will dissipate".

Shelly Yacimovich, a Labour Knesset member, seized on news of the latest investigation to claim that the scope of the charges against Mr Olmert was "unprecedented". She told Army Radio that Mr Olmert should immediately suspend himself and added: "It has been proven beyond any doubt that the Prime Minister can't be under serial investigations and also suspected of crimes and also lead the country."

Mr Olmert, who is preparing for a series of events to mark Israel's 60th anniversary, is highly unlikely to take Ms Yacimovich's advice. Any decisions on a possible indictment by the prosecuting authorities is months away, at the earliest.

*The Israel Defence Forces said yesterday that the conclusions of an internal investigation into the killing of her mother and four young children in northern Gaza this week confirmed its earlier account that the deaths had been caused by a "secondary" explosion from "weaponry and ammunition" carried on the backs of two gunmen hit by Israeli forces.

IDF expressed "sorrow" at the civilian deaths but said the gunmen had been endangering civilian lives by operating near them.