Prosecution to seek ‘about five years’ for Olmert

Prosecution to seek ‘about five years’ for Olmert

The former prime minister was found guilty in March of taking bribes in the so-called Holyland affair

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Tel Aviv District Court, Monday, March 31, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/POOL/Dan Balilty)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Tel Aviv District Court, Monday, March 31, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/POOL/Dan Balilty)

State prosecutors will seek a jail term of “about five years” for disgraced former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Channel 2 reported Thursday.

Olmert, along with several others, was found guilty in March of taking and giving bribes over the course of the development of the Holyland construction project in Jerusalem, which occurred over 10 years ago during his tenure as mayor of the city.

Olmert’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28. The conviction marked the first time an Israeli prime minister had been found guilty of so serious a crime, in what has been called one of the worst corruption scandals in the country’s history. Olmert had previously been convicted of a relatively minor breach of trust charge.

According to Thursday’s report, ahead of the hearing Olmert and his team have sought out various character witnesses to testify on his behalf, one of them being former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has agreed to the request.

After his March 31 conviction, Olmert’s lawyers were said to be preparing an appeal against the guilty verdict.

Legal analysts have said Olmert is likely to face significant jail time.

Thursday’s report did not say what punishments the state would seek for nine others convicted in the Holyland case, a group including Uri Lupolianski, who succeeded Olmert as Jerusalem mayor.

Olmert, whose hopes for a political comeback were dashed by the guilty verdict, is also facing an investigation into allegations, leveled by his longtime former top aide Shula Zaken, who is now a state’s witness, that he attempted to obstruct legal proceedings in the case.

Channel 2 reported that this investigation was nearing its conclusion.

Holyland is a hulking hilltop development that Jerusalem residents long suspected was tainted by corruption. The case broke in 2010 after Shmuel Dachner, a businessman who was involved in the project, turned state’s witness. Dachner died last year from an illness, in the midst of the trial, and before Olmert’s counsel had completed its cross-examination of him.

Justice David Rozen of the Tel Aviv District Court, whose verdict underlined that he broadly accepted Dachner’s testimony and mistrusted Olmert’s, found that the state’s witness gave Olmert’s debt-ridden brother Yossi post-dated checks for NIS 500,000 ($143,000) at Olmert’s behest.

Olmert 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, before becoming prime minister in 2006. He led the center-right Kadima party into government, but resigned from the premiership in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted in several graft cases.

Olmert’s bribery conviction was not his first. He was sentenced by the Jerusalem District Court in September 2012 to a suspended year-long jail term and a NIS 75,000 (some $19,000) fine, following his conviction for a breach-of-trust charge in the so-called Investment Center scandal. The state prosecution is also appealing his acquittal in the Rishon Tours affair, in which he was cleared of holding a travel slush fund, and in the Talansky affair, in which he was cleared of accepting undeclared contributions from American businessman Morris Talansky.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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