Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted on Tuesday morning of the charges against him in two major cases, and convicted only of breach of trust, in a third.
Jerusalem District Court president, Moussia Arad, headed the panel of judges that found Olmert not guilty of the charges in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, and convicted him only on one count – breach of trust, in the Investment Center affair. Accusations over the Talansky affair led to Olmert's forced resignation as prime minister.
In response to the court's decision, the former prime minister said after the trial, "There was no corruption, there were no envelopes of money." He said he would learn from the breach of trust charge he had been found guilty, which he added was based on a failure to follow procedure, not corruption.
Shula Zaken, Olmert's longtime office manager and co-defendant, was convicted in the Rishon Tours affair, and acquitted on other charges, including listening in on Olmert's conversations without permission.
The acquittal is a major blow to the state prosecutions' office.
In the Rishon Tours affair, Olmert was acquitted due to reasonable doubt. "The defendant's claim that he wasn't aware of it, has its problems," wrote Arad, "but there wasn't enough evidence presented to prove that his version of events isn't reasonable… there were no clear directives or procedures." The judges accepted Olmert's explanation that there was disorder in the Prime Minister's Office, rather than an organized scheme to produce profits.
"We arrived at the conclusion that the evidence does not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants chose a course of action that would gain the defendant profits," Arad said, "no document was found in which the defendant directed Risby-Raz to collect the extra money. Indeed, there are documents that could point to the defendant's awareness of surpluses."
The judges also accepted the argument that Olmert was very busy and could have believed that the flights were funded by frequent flyer points. "The [defendant's] public behavior does not coincide with a system of fraud intended to create cash surpluses… such an intention was not proved," wrote the court, which also determined that "there was no joint fraud system by the defendant and Rishon Tours. There were no special relations with the Rishon Tours owners, and no proof of a system to produce profits."
Earlier, in the introduction to the verdict, president Arad said that the "trial was long and complex. One hundred and fifty-seven hearings, 19,000 pages of protocol, 966 exhibits. The sides' summaries include 4,000 pages. Two events caused delays – the attorney's strike and the police investigation of a further affair (Holyland)." Judge Arad praised both sides' handling of the case.
After the trial, Zaken told reporters, "I felt the whole way that the judges were listening, asking the right questions. I decided not to be a witness at the trial, because I felt I was being used as a tool by someone who wanted to take down a Prime Minister."
Omert corruption trial
When Olmert first took the witness stand, in May 2011, Olmert told the court, "I am fighting for my life here," and he has certainly waged a stubborn legal battle.
In the Rishon Tours affair Olmert allegedly pocketed $92,164 by claiming double and triple reimbursement from public organizations and from the state for trips between 2002-2006.
In the Talansky affair, which led to Olmert's resignation as prime minister in 2008, Olmert is charged with illegally receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally.
The Investment Center affairs concerns allegations that Olmert, during his term as industry, trade and labor minister, granted personal favors to Uri Messer, his old law partner.
Ehud Olmert's young brother, Dr. Yossi Olmert, who lives and teaches these days in the U.S., told Haaretz on Tuesday that "it was tough period for all of us, and we are all relieved. We always trusted Ehud, and were sure that the allegations were false. Israel proved again
Its democratic nature."
Yossi Olmert was interrogated in the past over allegations that he received money from Talansky.
Olmert is also one of sixteen suspects charged with wrongdoing in the Holyland corruption trial, which involves developers who allegedly paid bribes to senior Jerusalem municipal officials in exchange for expedited approval of expanded construction plans for the Holyland project.
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