Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday of fraud and breach of trust in the retrial of a 7-year-old corruption case that marred the end of his tenure as the nation’s leader.
A panel of three judges at a Jerusalem district court reversed a previous court ruling that had cleared the former leader of most charges in the case. The retrial was ordered last year after a lifelong confidant of Olmert became a state witness and turned over recordings that seemed to offer new evidence.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified prosecutor Uri Korb as Eli Korb.
Two years ago, Olmert was cleared of most charges in an indictment accusing him of accepting dollar-stuffed envelopes for years from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in return for favors, as well as double-billing and falsifying travel expenses.
The information provided by the confidant, Shula Zaken, ahead of the latest trial included recordings of Olmert agreeing to a $30,000 payment to Zaken from an unreported slush-fund originating from Talansky’s money.
Zaken was released from jail in January after six months that followed a plea bargain and conviction for money laundering and bribery in what’s known in Israel as the “Holyland case.” The scandal, which evolved into one of the nation’s biggest corruption cases, was tied to a controversial Jerusalem residential project of that name approved during Olmert’s tenure as the city’s mayor.
Olmert was convicted last year in a separate case of accepting bribes and sentenced to six years in prison. That prison term was delayed as the Supreme Court is debating his attorneys’ appeal of his conviction.
Sentencing in the latest case is scheduled for May. He could receive as many as five years in prison.
On Monday, Olmert left the courtroom immediately after the reading and made no comment, while his high-profile team of attorneys circulated a statement to the media expressing “disappointment” at the “erroneous” verdict.
“The decision today was reached despite blatant lies of Shula Zaken in court,” said the statement, which charged Olmert’s once-close aide with manipulating the recordings to incriminate their client. “The tapes are unreliable, if not inadmissible,” attorney Eli Zohar said.
Prosecutor Uri Korb called the verdict a victory for the “battle against public corruption.”
Sobelman is a special correspondent.