[JURIST] Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert [official profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of fraud and corruption that led to his resignation last year. Olmert is accused of illegally accepting cash contributions from American businessman Moshe Talansky, double billing [JURIST reports] travel expenses to the state and charitable donors, and giving his former law partner Uri Messer access to state information. Olmert denied all charges [Haaretz report] against him Monday in his first public response to the allegations. The court is due to begin hearing testimony in the trial on February 22. If convicted, Olmert faces up to five years in prison on each count.
Olmert's trial, the first of a former or current Israeli prime minister, comes after three years of allegations that he abused his official powers during his time as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry, trade, and labor. Proceedings began [JURIST report] in September after Attorney General Menahem Mazuz [official profile] formally indicted [JURIST report] Olmert in August, but the trial was postponed until February to allow Olmert to gather evidence necessary for his defense. In April 2007, Olmert was investigated for improperly favoring his supporters [JURIST report] in distributing business grants during his time as trade minister. In January 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Justice announced plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that he promoted the interests of two business associates during the 2005 state sale of Bank Leumi [corporate website].