Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has been found guilty of accepting bribes in a retrial of corruption charges, the latest chapter in the downfall of a man who only years earlier hoped to lead the country to a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Olmert’s lawyers said they would probably appeal over the ruling by the Jerusalem District Court. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Olmert was acquitted in 2012 of a series of charges that included accepting cash-stuffed envelopes containing hundreds of thousands of dollars from US businessman Morris Talansky before Olmert became prime minister. The verdict was seen as a major victory for Olmert.
But Olmert’s former office manager and confidant Shula Zaken later turned state’s witness, offering tape recordings of conversations with Olmert about illicitly receiving cash, leading to a retrial.
A panel of judges at the Jerusalem District Court found that Olmert had accepted Talansky’s money as a personal bribe without reporting it, calling it a “serious conflict of interest”. The judges ruled that an Olmert aide kept the money hidden in a safe.
Olmert’s lawyer, Eyal Rozovsky, said Olmert’s legal team was “of course very disappointed from the ruling” and said his lawyers would review it and probably appeal.
Olmert has claimed he was on the brink of a historic agreement with the Palestinians when he was forced to resign in early 2009 amid corruption allegations. His departure cleared the way for hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu’s election. Peace efforts have been at a standstill ever since.