Published On: Tue, May 13th, 2014

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert sentenced to six years in jail for corruption

The former prime minister was sentenced this morning in the Holyland corruption trial.

Ehud Olmert

This morning, Judge David Rosen sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison and a NIS 1 million fine in the Holyland affair trial in the Tel Aviv District Court. Olmert was convicted of accepting bribes in return for facilitating the Holyland project in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood when he was mayor of the city. The money was transferred to his brother Yossi Olmert, who was experiencing financial difficulties.

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Olmert still insists on his innocence and has announced his intention of appealing against his conviction to the Supreme Court.

In 2012, he was acquitted of corruptly receiving political campaign finance through US businessman Morris (Moshe) Talnasky and of claiming double travel expenses, but received a suspended prison sentence for corruptly obtaining government financing for businesses when he was Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, when he decided to return to national politics and Lupolianski succeeded him, and was prime minister from 2006 to 2009.

Along with Olmert, the others convicted in the affair received sentences as follows: Hillel Cherney, a real estate developer who owned the land on which the Holyland project was built, three and a half years prison and a NIS 2 million fine; Avigdor Kelner, one of the founders of the Holyland Park company, three years prison and a fine of NIS 1 million; Meir Rabin, who acted as go-between in the affair and who was found to have lied in his testimony, five years prison and a fine of NIS 500, 000; former Jerusalem City Engineer Uri Sheetrit, who was found to have received bribes that he personally retained, seven years prison; former chairman of Bank Hapoalim Dan Dankner, three years prison plus a two-year suspended sentence; and Eliezer Simhayof, a deputy mayor of Jerusalem, three and a half years prison. The other people convicted in the trial, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and Jerusalem city councilor Avraham Finer were not in court today because of their ill health and will be sentenced later. The court also has to decide on the plea bargain reached with Olmert’s aide Shula Zaken, who was also involved in the bribery affair.

The Holyland Project  in Jerusalem. (image by Adiel lo,    via Wikipedia)

“The accused damaged the public’s faith and undermined its confidence in its leaders, ” Judge David Rosen said at the beginning of sentencing, “Bribery offences corrode governance. They pollute the public service and cause it to be diseased. The person who gives a bribe is corrupt and corrupting. The public servant who accepts a bribe comes into the category of traitor. Those who take bribes arouse revulsion.” The sentences he handed down were in fact more lenient than those that the State Prosecutor had demanded. The range of sentences shows that the offence of receiving a bribe by a public official is considered more severe than paying a bribe.

Concerning Cherney, the judge said that he took into account the fact that his motives for constructing the Holyland project were not only financial ones, and that he saw it as a public benefit, and that Cherney’s military record and his extensive philanthropic activity were in his favor. Cherney was persuaded by the state’s witness, Shmuel Dechner, who died during the course of the trial, that bribery was the only way of expediting the project in Jerusalem.

President Shimon Peres, who is on a state visit to Norway, said that today was sad day for him, but that it had been demonstrated that no-one was above the law.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com 

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