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Middle east

Israeli ex-PM Ehud Olmert sentenced to six years for bribery

© Afp

Video by Sanam SHANTYAEI

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-13

Israel's former prime minister Ehud Olmert has been sentenced to six years in prison and fined the equivalent of €210,000 for bribery in connection with charges dating from when he was the mayor of Jerusalem, Israeli media reports said Tuesday.

The Tel Aviv district court sentenced Olmert for accepting bribes linked to a major property development planned for Jerusalem, Israeli media said.

According to Israel's main radio stations, Olmert was also fined a million shekels ($290,000 or €210,000) in the verdict, which comes just six weeks after he was convicted of two counts of bribery in March along with several others.

The charges involved a wide-ranging Jerusalem real estate scandal and related to Olmert's activities before he became prime minister in 2006. According to the indictment, millions of dollars illegally changed hands to promote a series of real estate projects, including a controversial housing development that required a radical change in zoning laws and saw developers given tax breaks and other benefits.

Olmert's trial, which included 16 defendants and took place over two years, was linked to the construction of the Holyland residential complex, which now dominates the city's skyline. It is seen by many as a major blot on the landscape and widely reviled as a symbol of high-level corruption.

In 2010, Olmert was named the key suspect in the so-called Holyland affair on suspicion that he received hundreds of thousands of shekels for helping developers get the construction project past various legal and planning obstacles.

Olmert was the mayor of Jerusalem and the minister of industry and trade at the time.

"He held the most important and central position and ended up convicted of contemptible crimes," Judge David Rosen said in passing the sentence.

"A public official who accepts bribes is tantamount to a traitor," he said.

Rosen said that Olmert and a fellow city official who was also convicted of receiving bribes had worked to "line their own pockets".

Three earlier defendants who were convicted of paying bribes received lesser sentences than those demanded by the prosecution. But the city's former engineer, who like Olmert was accused of accepting the bribes, was given seven years of jail time.

In July 2012, a Jerusalem court found Olmert guilty of breach of trust but cleared him on two more serious charges related to the alleged receipt of cash-stuffed envelopes and multiple billings for trips abroad. He was fined $19,000 and given a suspended jail sentence for graft.

The Haifa-born politician 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.

He became premier in 2006, leading the centre-right Kadima party into government, but resigned in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted in several graft cases.

Olmert, 68, says he will appeal.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

Date created : 2014-05-13

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