For 1st time in Israel’s history, a former Prime Minister is sentenced to jail: Judge sentences former PM Ehud Olmert to 6 years in jail for his role in real-estate development corruption affair.
By Naama Cohen-Friedman
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison and fined NIS 1 million in court in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning for his role in the ‘Holyland Affair’, the real estate corruption case considered the largest of its kind in Israeli history.
The case marks the first time a prime minister was convicted of a felony and now, with his sentencing, the first time a former prime minister has ever been sentenced to jail time.
Tel Aviv Court Judge David Rosen convicted Olmert at the end of March of two charges of bribery, and said he accepted NIS 560,000 ($160,000) from developers of the Holyland project of in Jerusalem at the time he served as the capital’s mayor.
Regarding the entire affair, the judge said “those who give bribes are corrupt, but those who receive it inspire disgrace and cause the public to lose faith in the State. A public servant who accepts bribes is equivalent to a traitor.”
Judge Rosen further said that the graft charges Olmert was convicted of include moral turpitude.
The judge ruled that the seven jail sentences handed out on Tuesday would begin on the first of September and fines would be paid out in 10 payments.
Additional sentencing included Hillel Cherney, who was the developer behind the Holyland project and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and fined NIS 2 million. Cherney was convicted of 19 offenses of corruption and a slew of additional corruption and break of trust offenses.
Danny Dankner, the former chairman of Israel’s second-biggest bank, also received three years in jail during Tuesday’s sentencing. Dankner, who is now the joint chairman of Israel Salt Industries, was also fined a million and half shekel.
Avigdor Kelner, also a developer in the project, who was convicted of two corruption charge in the affair, was sentenced to three years and fined NIS 1 million.
Former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who succeeded Olmert as the city’s mayor, and Dankner, were both charged and convicted of offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to a government official to rezone land for the project.
Olmert reportedly used the money to pay the debts of his brother Yossi and close personal debts he acquired during his campaigns, paid to his assistant Shula Zaken, who weeks before the end of the trial became a witness for the prosecution in a plea bargain deal which Judge Rosen is expected to reject on the claim that the testimony of Olmert’s brother, and not that of Zaken, was what incriminated the former prime minister.
The state requested Olmert be sentenced to 5-7 years in prison and pay over one million shekel in fines; for Dankner they requested up to eight years in prison and up to three million shekel in fines. Lupolianski will be sentenced later in the month because of health issues.
Olmert spoke in court, and reiterated his denial of the allegations regarding his role in the affair. He said that the “conviction was a shock for me. I knew it was based on a fundamental mistake, which is just wrong,” he said.
“I am proud,” Olmert continued, “of the decade in which I ran the honest city (Jerusalem). The right path is to appeal the decision and turn to the High Court. I believe it will make the effort to see the whole picture and reach the conclusion that I never took any bribe, not directly and not indirectly, not for my affiliates and not for my family – that is the truth.”
His lawyers are expected to request a stay in the implementation of his sentence.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4519077,00.html