Former Israel PM convicted of bribery

Jerusalem, March 31: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday in a corruption case dating to the decade from 1993 when he was the mayor of Jerusalem.

According to prosecutors, between 1993 and 2003, Olmert used his power as mayor to expedite construction processes of residential projects like the Holyland complex in Jerusalem in exchange for bribes from construction contractors, Xinhua reported.

He thus became the first former Israeli prime minister to be convicted of bribery and the conviction would put an end to Olmert’s further attempts to return to politics.

Olmert was among 13 defendants in the Holyland trial, and 10 of the rest were also convicted on the same day by Judge David Rozen of the Tel Aviv District Court.

The Holyland trial has been going on for two years and is considered one of the most severe corruption affairs in the history of Israel.

The judge did not accept the prosecution’s request to delay the rulings and hear a testimony from Olmert’s former aide Shula Zaken, who signed a plea bargain with the prosecution and agreed to testify against him.

However, the prosecution would be able to seek another conviction on those charges later on in a different trial.

Ehud Olmert, who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2009, was forced to resign amid corruption allegations that started to surface against him in several cases. He was also indicted in two other cases of corruption but was acquitted.

Olmert was found not guilty in a case in July 2012, in which he was accused of receiving illegal donations from Jewish American businessman Moris Talansky.

In the “Rishon Tours Affair”, he was also acquitted from all charges, including double-billing reimbursement from public organisations on behalf of which he spoke abroad.

Olmert was, however, convicted in another case of irregularities during his tenure as industry, trade and labour minister between 2003 and 2005.

He was accused of securing grants and tax breaks for a long-time colleague and close friend, attorney Uri Messer, and his clients.

IANS