Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in jail Tuesday for taking bribes in a trial linked to a massive real-estate development in Jerusalem when he was mayor of the capital city, making him the first former head of government in Israel to be criminally convicted.
Olmert was fined about $289,000 and received an additional suspended sentence of two years, media reports said, citing state radio Israel Broadcasting. Olmert, who served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, was also convicted in Tel Aviv in March of receiving about $144,000 in bribes related to a controversial housing project called Holyland, which forced him to resign as prime minister in 2008. He was also found guilty of receiving bribes worth $17,000 in a separate real estate project.
“We are talking about a judgment based on a completely unjustified verdict, and it is Olmert’s intention to appeal to the Supreme Court in the hope that there, the real story will be uncovered,” Amir Dan, a spokesman for the former prime minister, reportedly said before the sentencing.
Olmert’s lawyers were expected to ask the Tel Aviv court that passed the sentence to allow the 68-year-old veteran politician to remain free until the Supreme Court rules on an appeal against his March 31 conviction, a process that could take months.
Judge David Rozen of Tel Aviv District Court said Olmert and nine government officials and business figures, who were convicted along with him, had all “harmed the public trust,” and that the former prime minister deserved a harsh sentence because he is a public figure. Rozen reportedly said, referring to political corruption: “The cancer must be uprooted.”
Olmert, who was acquitted of charges brought against him in separate cases alleging that he took money from a U.S. businessman in exchange for official favors, is the latest senior Israeli government official to face jail term in recent years.
Former President Moshe Katsav was convicted for two counts of rape in 2011 and was sent to prison for seven years while former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson was sentenced to five years for theft and money laundering in 2009, and former Health Minister Shlomo Benizri went to jail for 18 months in 2008, a sentence later extended to four years, for accepting bribes.