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Olmert's hearing over possible double-billing affair indictment set for Feb.
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17:14, December 24, 2008

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hearing prior to a possible indictment for his alleged misuse of public funds is to be held in February, local daily Ha'aretz reported Wednesday.

"Out of familiarity with the material and its scope, it is our assessment that this is a reasonable period that allows you to adequately prepare for the hearing," Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's assistant Raz Nizri wrote Tuesday to Eli Zohar who represents Olmert.

The February hearing is Olmert's last chance to convince Mazuz that an indictment over the double-billing affair is unjustified, said Ha'aretz.

In late November, Mazuz said that he was considering indicting Olmert over the double-billing case, telling Olmert's lawyers that the prime minister was welcome to call for a hearing before a final decision on the matter.

In the affair, which is also known as the Rishon Tours affair named after the travel agency, Olmert was alleged for paying for both of his own and his family's private flights by money obtained fraudulently from public bodies when serving as Jerusalem mayor and then as the industry, trade and labor minister from 2003 to 2006.

Olmert might face the charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, failure to report an income and receiving illegal benefits, to which an aggravated circumstances clause applies.

Earlier this week, Olmert's lawyers said the hearing should be delayed until May because it will take them that long to study the dozens of binders of evidence amassed during the investigation. However, the request was rejected Tuesday by Mazuz.

It is possible that Olmert, who is currently under five corruption probes, hopes to avoid multiple hearings should any of the other investigations against him result in indictments, said Ha'aretz.


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