I don’t know if you could ever find a stranger conflict of interest in Israeli law and politics. Ehud Olmert’s former law partner and business associate, Uri Messer, is presently singing to Israeli police and the attorney general about his involvement in the funds Morris Talansky raised for Olmert. From what I’ve read, all funds collected were passed on to Messer who then appropriated them. That’s why Messer is such a crucial figure in the investigation.
Ynet and my blog reader Amir have noted that Messer is married to Davida Lachman-Messer, the deputy attorney general. I’ve never heard of a a chief witness in a bribery investigation being married to a senior officer in the investigating agency. Wow, is that a conflict if there ever was one! Here in the U.S. this would be a perfect opportunity to appoint a special counsel in order to remove the conflict from the AG’s office. Or else you’d have to completely quarantine the deputy AG from involvement with the case. And how could you?
I wonder how, or if Israeli law deals with such an issue. I’m hoping S, a former lawyer and reader of this blog, can enlighten us on this.
S has translated the relevant portions of Israeli penal law dealing with bribery charges:
Israeli Penal Code (1977):
290. (a) A public servant who receives a bribe in return for an action related to his work – is punishable by a [maximum] sentence of 7 years or 7 years and a fine of 10,000 Liras.
(b) In this section, “public servant” – including an employee of a corporation performing a public service.
293. In bribery offense, it is irrelevant –
(1) if it was money, or something with monetary value, or service or another benefit;
(2) if it was given for the commission or an omission of an action, delay of an action, expediting an action, slowing an action, giving preference or discrimination;
(3) if it was for a specific action or for general favoritism;
(4) if it was for an act by the receiver of the bribe or for the receiver’s influence on another person;
(5) if it was given by the giver of the bribe or by another; if it was given to the receiver or to another person on behalf of the receiver; if it was from the outset or in retrospect; or if the person benefiting from the bribe was the receiver of another person;
(6) if the receiver’s status was one of authority or service; if it was permanent or temporary or it was general or for a specific purpose; if it was for pay or without pay; if it was in volunteer work or fulfilling a legal duty;
(7) if it was received in order to stray from the obligations in fulfilling the receiver’s duties or if it was for the performance of an action that the receiver was obligated to perform according to law.
I’m a little unclear as to whether or not there’s a contradiction between sections 290 and 293 in that 290 requires “an action in return for” the bribe. While section 293 seems to say it doesn’t need to be in return for various types of actions. But other Israeli readers tell me that section 290 is more relevant and there doesn’t need to be a specific quid pro quo for a crime. However, the prosecution will have to prove that the money went directly into Olmert’s pocket rather than into his election campaign (as the statute of limitations would’ve run out on this crime). That’s why Messer is crucial to the case.