Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, along with nine other former high ranking officials and prominent businessmen, was convicted on bribery charges on Monday morning.
Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to ever be convicted on bribery charges, though the actual crime occurred prior to his premiership.
During Olmert’s tenure as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993–2003, he and officials under him (including his successor, former mayor Uri Lupolianski) received hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay-offs and bribes in exchange for facilitating and promoting the “Holyland” housing development.
According to the judge’s decision, Olmert was personally provided in excess of $170,000, which he had sent to his debt-ridden brother, Yossi. Also involved in the scheme, and also convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, were Lupolianski, former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner, Olmert’s long-time aide Shula Zaken, as well as several high-ranking city officials and a number of businessmen, including one of the contractors involved with Holyland.
Last year, the case against Olmert wasn’t looking good, until Zaken came forward and accused her former boss of obstruction of justice. Unfortunately for Zaken, who also happily received pay-offs alongside Olmert, she spilled the beans before securing immunity. Her last ditch attempt to turn state’s witness just last week was rejected by Judge David Rozen.
Sentencing for all the convicted will take place next month. It is believed that Olmert will face at least several years in prison. It is also now a near-certainty that his political career is over. Olmert last year contemplated a return to politics, believing he had beaten the graft charges that had forced him to resign in 2008.
Previous polls have revealed that most Israelis are aware of the wide-spread corruption in their municipalities and national government, but believed there was little to be done about it. Israel’s Movement for Quality Government said it hoped the Olmert conviction would be a turning point for the nation and the beginning of a reversal of the phenomenon.