Israel — Israel's chief government watchdog recommended a criminal investigation Wednesday into a business deal conducted by Ehud Olmert before he became prime minister, further weakening the embattled leader.
The state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, concluded that when Olmert was trade minister in 2001, he interfered improperly in the process of awarding grants to Israeli businesses through the ministry's Investment Center, favoring supporters.
Olmert has consistently denied wrongdoing in all the cases that have emerged against him in recent years.
Ultimately, the attorney general has the final say about whether a criminal investigation will be opened. But the growing number of potential scandals is harming Olmert's standing at a time when his popularity has plummeted to single figures because of last year's inconclusive war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.