Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joins a long list of elected officials in the country who have been convicted of corruption and sentenced to jail in recent years. However it’s the first time a former head of government is facing jail.
The 68-year-old was convicted alongside ten other government officials and businesspeople in the Holyland case, a multi-million euro bribery scandal which centred around the construction of a hilltop housing project widely regarded as Jerusalem’s worst eyesore.
A lawyer by profession, Olmert began his political career in the 1970s as an MP who targeted organised crime in Israel. He was mayor of Jerusalem for ten years and prime minister from 2006 to 2009.
As Jerusalem’s former mayor, he was found guilty of taking bribes in exchange for helping land developers obtain licenses to build the project.
Olmert’s years in office were plagued by a string of corruption scandals which led to his resignation as prime minister in 2008. Until now, Olmert has mainly been able to dodge them.
He was convicted just once, back in 2012, when he was handed a one-year suspended sentence and a hefty fine for breach of trust in business deals when he was minister of trade and industry.
But 2012 saw him acquitted of most of the major accusations against him.
These included charges of fraudulent earnings linked to donations by a New York financier and breach of trust amid claims he over-billed the Israeli state and Jewish charities.
At the time there was talk of a possible political comeback, that’s now a distant dream.
Olmert’s lawyers plan to lodge an appeal hearing with the Supreme Court, a process that could take several months. In the meantime they’ve asked that Olmert be free on bail.
If the guilty verdict is upheld, Olmert will be heading for jail, following in the footsteps of former president Moshe Katsav, who is serving a seven-year sentence on rape charges.
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