By KATE SHEEHY, NY POST
May 6, 2008 — A Long Island mogul is at the center of a sensational bribery scandal that could bring down embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, The Post has learned.
Millionaire financier Morris Talansky – who runs an investment firm out of his tony home in Woodmere – allegedly passed money to Olmert while the politician was mayor of Jerusalem in the ’90s, sources said.
In a highly unusual move, Israeli authorities have barred the country’s media from publishing Talansky’s name – revealed now in The Post – saying it could hamper their investigation. Israeli media has referred only to the involvement of an “American businessman.”
Talansky is apparently set to sing to Israeli authorities about his alleged role in the scheme, sources said.
“It looks serious, and it looks like they have a state witness” in Talansky, one source said.
Talansky – a philanthropist and political contributor to everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Bill Clinton – is in Jerusalem, where he has an apartment, preparing to head to a closed-door court hearing as early as today, sources said.
The 75-year-old was earlier questioned about the alleged scheme almost immediately after arriving in the country for Passover, and he implicated Olmert, sources have said.
It was unclear what the alleged payments to Olmert were for, but sources said they involved hefty amounts of cash.
Talansky repeatedly appears – sometimes under the nickname “The Laundry Man” – in the logs of financial dealings kept by Olmert’s longtime aide, Shula Zakan, a source said.
Olmert was grilled by investigators Friday. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The allegations are only the latest in a string of woes for Olmert, who has battled past charges of government corruption and questionable personal business practices.
“But this time seems very serious, and it seems eventually, we don’t know if it will be days, weeks or months, in the end, he may not be able to continue to be prime minister,” one source said.
A man answering the phone at Talansky’s multimillion-dollar mansion in Woodmere yesterday said, “He’s not available.”
Talansky lists himself as CEO of the Global Resources Group, a self-described financial-investment firm.