The first criminal trial of a former Israeli prime minister has seen Ehud Olmert convicted of a corruption charge. But his acquittal on two more serious counts means it’s being hailed as a victory for the veteran politician.
The court in Jerusalem ruled that, as trade and industry minister, Olmert granted illegal favours to a businessman friend. But he was found not guilty of receiving bribes from an American fundraiser and fiddling expenses from charities.
“There was no corruption, no receipt of money, no use of money, there were no cash envelopes, there were none of the things they tried to pin on me,” he said after the verdict was announced.
As for the conviction for fraud and breach of trust, he added: “I respect the court decision and I will draw the necessary conclusions.”
Israeli media are describing the verdict as a “legal earthquake”, a “crushing defeat” for the prosecution, following predictions that Olmert would be convicted on all three counts.
The court said prosecutors had failed to prove anything illegal over a payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars that US businessman Morris Talanksy says he gave Olmert. The former PM said the money was used for electioneering, denying any personal gain.
The accusations prompted Olmert to resign as prime minister in 2008, saying he wanted to clear his name. The 66-year-old will be sentenced later over his conviction.
He also faces trial over another corruption scandal relating to a property development in Jerusalem when he was the city’s mayor.