Israeli police question Olmert over bank deal

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JERUSALEM, Oct 9 (Reuters) Police today questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over allegations of attempted bid-rigging in the sale of a commercial bank, one of several scandals dogging the Israeli leader.

Olmert was Israel's finance minister during the 2005 privatisation of Bank Leumi, Israel's second biggest commercial bank. Suspicions in that case focus on whether he tried to tailor the sale offer to give preference to a friend, who ultimately never bid on the bank.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing.

The prime minister is under another investigation over the apparently discounted price of a Jerusalem home he purchased in 2004, shortly after he stepped down as the city's mayor.

Israel's attorney-general is also considering whether to order a probe on whether Olmert, as trade minister in 2003, appointed cronies to a state business authority and helped secure funding for a factory represented by his ex-law partner.

The cases -- which Olmert has dismissed as baseless -- have raised questions about the prime minister's political future as he pursues peace talks with the Palestinians.

REUTERS SG PM1520

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