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Ex-Israeli PM Olmert guilty of “filthy” corruption: court

Al-Akhbar | March 31, 2014

Ehud Olmert (1993–2003)

Tel Aviv district court on Monday convicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a trial for corruption linked to a major property development in Jerusalem, Israeli media reports said.

The ruling marks the first time a former Israeli premier has been convicted of bribery in what has been called one of the worst corruption scandals in the country’s history.

According to public Channel 1 television, Olmert was convicted on two counts of receiving bribes linked to construction of Jerusalem’s massive Holyland residential complex dating from when he was the city’s mayor.

Olmert, 68, who could face up to 10 years in prison when sentencing is handed down at a later date, will appeal the verdict, his spokesman Jacob Galanti said.

In 2012, Olmert was acquitted of major charges in separate cases involving his links to a US businessman while he was Jerusalem mayor and an Israeli cabinet minister.

Handing down the conviction on Monday, Judge David Rosen told Tel Aviv District Court the case “exposed governance that grew more corrupt and rotten over the years”, with bribes paid to public officials.

“We’re talking about corrupt and filthy practices,” David Rosen said while reading out the verdict, his remarks playing out across all Israeli media.

He also spoke of a “corrupt political system which has decayed over the years… and in which hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to elected officials.”

Rosen also said the former premier had lied to the court in a bid to “blacken the name” of the state’s witness.

Olmert, who is remembered in Lebanon for spearheading the 2006 assault on the country that killed over 1,200 people, reportedly sat expressionless throughout the verdict.

In 2010, Olmert was named the key suspect in the so-called Holyland affair on suspicion that he received bribes totaling some 1.5 million shekels ($430,000, 312,000 euros at today’s exchange rate), although the prosecution later reduced the sum received by about half.

He was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, after which he served as a cabinet minister, holding the trade and industry portfolio as well as several others, before becoming premier in 2006.

He resigned from the premiership in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted in several graft cases.

In July 2012, a Jerusalem court found Olmert guilty of breach of trust in a closely watched corruption case, but cleared him on two more serious charges related to the alleged receipt of cash-stuffed envelopes and multiple billing for trips abroad.

He was fined $19,000 and given a suspended jail sentence for graft.

The conviction related to favors that Olmert granted a former colleague while serving as the trade and industry minister.

(AFP, Reuters Al-Akhbar)

March 31, 2014 - Posted by | Corruption | , ,

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