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Former Israel PM Ehud Olmert convicted of bribery

Ehud Olmert in June 2013, speaking at a Jerusalem Post event in NYC; posted on YouTubeA court in Tel Aviv Monday found former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert guilty of taking bribes while he served as mayor of Jerusalem and a government minister.

Judge David Rosen convicted Olmert of receiving bribes related to a controversial Jerusalem housing project called Holyland.

Olmert was convicted of two counts of bribery and one count of perjury. His trial included 16 defendants and spanned over two years.

According to the verdict, Olmert and other government officials received bribes from the developer of Holyland, Hillel Cherney, in exchange for a variety of land approvals, zoning law changes and tax benefits for the developers.

News accounts report varying amounts of bribes to Olmert, with most saying he accepted 560,000 shekels ($160,000) from Holyland developers.

The Holyland bribes happened before Olmert became prime minister in 2006.

He stepped down as prime minister in 2009 amid other allegations of corruption and was named the key suspect in the Holyland case in 2010.

The original indictment in 2012 detailed how millions of dollars changed hands among 13 government officials and developers to promote the mammoth construction project in Jerusalem.

Judge Rosen’s 700-page verdict delivered Monday referred to Olmert’s “corrupt and filthy practices” and of a “corrupt political system which has decayed over the years … and in which hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to elected officials.”

Thirteen of the 16 defendants were found guilty.

Rosen said in his verdict that Olmert had lied to the court in an effort to tarnish the good name of the state’s witness.

In 2012, Olmert was cleared of two major corruption charges in 2012. But he was convicted of illegally granting favors to a business friend during his time as trade and industry minister under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He was fined $19,000 and given a suspended jail sentence for corruption in that case.

Olmert’s bribery and perjury convictions Monday made him the first Isreal head of state to be convicted of graft.

The sentencing phase will start April 28 and could take several weeks.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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