Diet King Denies Slim Fast Bribes

Billionaire calls reports that he hid cash bribes in diet "insulting."

ByABC News
May 16, 2008, 3:06 PM

May 16, 2008 — -- The probe into Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's finances has all the ingredients -- alleged, of course -- of a classic Hollywood political thriller.

These include allegations of cash bribes hidden in cases of Slim Fast, bribes paid to install speed bumps on a residential street and envelopes full of cash slipped to Olmert.

And, appropriately enough, the cast of characters are almost all American.

In the last two weeks, three American businessmen have been brought in for questioning by Israeli authorities investigating alleged irregularities in Olmert's campaign fundraising.

Thursday, former New York limousine driver Avi Sherman told Israeli TV that he delivered suspected bribes, including bundles of money tucked into cases of Slim Fast diet products and cash in envelopes, to Olmert. He claimed they were given to him by S. Daniel Abraham, the founder of the diet-food empire.

Abraham, a billionaire and longtime Democratic fundraiser, strongly denied the allegations, telling Army Radio, "Of course I never gave any money to Ehud Olmert. The very question is insulting to me. This is my reputation at risk and I have no reason to risk it."

Abraham stressed that he was questioned by police as a witness rather than a suspect and that he didn't even recognize the driver when police introduced Sherman to him.

Some of the irregular contributions were reportedly transferred through the New Jerusalem Foundation, a charity founded by Olmert in 1999, which raises money for Israeli causes. The foundation's treasurer, New York businessman Morris Talansky, was deposed last week by authorities probing allegations that he gave $480,000 in bribes to Olmert and others.

Zvi Raviv, the former director general of the group, told that the charity "did not transfer one single cent for any political purposes, with or without Talansky," explaining that "there was no hanky-panky, no bulls***."

Raviv, who hired Talansky as the group's treasurer in the United States, also emphasized that the foundation was never asked to transfer money to Olmert.