JERUSALEM (AP) – Police investigators questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at his home Friday, a move certain to further tarnish Israel’s already unpopular leader.
Olmert is a suspect in several corruption affairs involving real estate deals and questionable political appointments, but has never been charged.
A car carrying several police investigators in powder-blue shirts pulled up at Olmert’s official residence in Jerusalem at mid-morning. The session ended about an hour later, according to a statement from Olmert’s office that gave no further details.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld would not disclose the subject of the police’s questions. The daily Yediot Ahronot reported that the suspicions concern money Olmert allegedly received from an American businessman before becoming prime minister.
In a statement released Thursday, Olmert’s office said he “made time in his busy schedule” for one hour of interrogation and would “cooperate fully.”
Olmert “is convinced that with the discovery of the truth in the police investigation, the suspicions against him will dissipate,” the statement said.
But Shelly Yacimovich, a member of Olmert’s ruling coalition from the Labor Party, called the scope of charges against Olmert “unprecedented” and said he should suspend himself immediately.
“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,” she told Israel Radio.
Olmert has been questioned several times in the past by police. In October, Israel’s attorney general ordered a criminal investigation into suspicions that Olmert acted improperly while he was trade minister. He is also suspected of improprieties in the purchase of a house in Jerusalem.
In November, police recommended closing another case involving allegations that he tried to steer a government bank sale in the direction of supporters.
Legal troubles have also dogged some of Olmert’s political allies. Olmert’s finance minister had to step down under embezzlement suspicions, and another close ally, now the country’s vice premier was convicted of sexual misconduct for forcibly kissing a female soldier. Last month, a lawmaker from another party in Olmert’s coalition was convicted of accepting bribes.
The slew of charges have convinced many Israelis that their government is deeply and irreparably tainted by corruption. Since his 2006 election Olmert has plummeted in public opinion polls, which now predict an easy victory for the opposition Likud party and a crushing defeat for Olmert and his Kadima party.
Israeli general elections are scheduled for 2010, but could be earlier if Olmert’s fractious coalition government falls apart.
Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported late Thursday that Olmert would be questioned under caution, an indication that police believe their interrogation could result in an indictment.
If Olmert is indicted, he would have to resign. A decision on formal charges, however, is at least months away.