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Israel ex-PM convicted of bribery charges

[JURIST] Israel's Tel Aviv District Court on Monday convicted former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert [official profile; JURIST news archive] of accepting bribes relating to the construction of a luxury apartment complex called the Holyland towers. As Jerusalem's mayor from 1993 to 2003, Olmert, along with other city officials, allegedly accepted nearly 560,000 shekels (USD $150,000) in bribes [NYT report] from developers to assure the approval of plans for Holyland, which dominates a Jerusalem hilltop and has attracted unrelenting criticism for its architecture. Specifically, the project's developers, who are also charged in the case, received zoning and tax breaks in return for the bribes. Olmert resigned as Israel's leader in September 2008, saying he wanted to clear his name, staying on as caretaker prime minister until March 2009 when Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in. Olmert was officially named as a suspect [JURIST report] in the investigation in April 2010.

In July 2012 Olmert was acquitted [JURIST report] of two major counts of corruption but found guilty of a third lesser charge in the culmination of a three-year trial. In a 700-page ruling three senior judges of a Jerusalem court rejected the prosecution's key accusations that as a cabinet minister and Jerusalem's mayor before becoming prime minister Olmert received bribes from US businessman Moshe Talansky, and that Olmert defrauded Israeli charities by double-billing them for overseas fundraising trips, a charge popularly referred to as the Rishon Tours double-billing affair. Olmert was convicted of breach of trust for granting illegal favors to a long-time friend and business partner while serving as minister of industry, trade and labor between 2002 and 2007. In September 2012 the court sentenced [JURIST report] Olmert to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of about USD $19,000 for the charge of breaching public trust.

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