Israeli police recommend that Olmert be charged

The Israeli police recommended Sunday that criminal charges be brought against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in two corruption probes that have forced him to announce he will step down later this month.

However, the decision on whether to indict Olmert rests with Israel's attorney general, Meni Mazuz, who will determine if charges will be filed – a process that could take several weeks.

Embroiled in a growing series of police investigations, Olmert promised in July to resign after his Kadima party chooses a new leader later this month, though he will remain in office as caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is the leading candidate to succeed Olmert in the party primary set for Sept. 17.

The police recommendation to indict Olmert further weakens his standing as he struggles to lead in the closing phase of his term.

The police said their investigation had found grounds to charge Olmert with taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

One case involved Morris Talansky, an American businessman who testified in a court deposition in May that he had transferred $150,000 to Olmert over a period of 15 years before he became prime minister.

Talansky said that tens of thousands of dollars delivered in cash-stuffed envelopes were mostly campaign contributions but also paid for extravagant personal expenses.

The police said they also found evidence that during those years, when Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister, he had billed multiple state agencies for the same flights abroad, using the surplus money to pay for personal trips and family vacations.

The police said that among the agencies bilked in the double-billing scheme were Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Soldiers Welfare Association, the Israeli equivalent of the USO.