Olmert found guilty of taking cash for personal gain


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty of accepting cash-filled envelopes from a U.S. Jewish businessman and using it for personal gain.

A three-judge panel of the Jerusalem District Court announced the verdict Monday in the retrial of the so-called Talansky Affair. The court found Olmert guilty on charges of fraud under aggravating circumstances and breach of trust.

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the new trial last month to allow the introduction of new testimony from Olmert’s former assistant Shula Zaken. The material included recordings of incriminating conversations between Olmert and Zaken, who provided the information last spring as part of a plea bargain.  The recordings showed that Olmert used the money from the businessman, Morris Talansky, for personal and not political use.

A lawyer for Olmert said the former prime minister will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Olmert did not testify during the retrial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5 and faces up to five years in prison, though he is more likely to receive a shorter prison sentence or community service.

In 2012, the same court acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs; the latter affair involved allegations that Olmert paid for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency. Olmert was found guilty on a lesser charge of breach of trust in what was known as the Investment Center case, in which Olmert, then trade minister, allegedly granted personal favors to attorney Uri Messer.

Zaken was convicted on two counts of fraudulently obtaining benefits, and fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case.

In the Investment Center case, the charges were filed after Olmert became prime minister in 2006, but covered his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a government minister. Olmert officially resigned as prime minister in 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted. He remained in power until national elections in February 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu was elected.

Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes in the real estate scam known as the Holyland Affair and ordered to report to prison on Sept. 1, 2014. The prison date was suspended pending his appeal.

Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to be sentenced to prison.

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