Olmert Facing Up to 6 Years in Prison

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and other top officials are expected to testify as character witnesses in the sentencing of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for accepting bribes.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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 Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.Credit: AP
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The State Prosecutor's Office is expected to ask on Monday that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be given a prison sentence of three to six years plus a fine for the two counts of accepting bribes he was convicted of in the Holyland affair trail.

The maximum sentence for the bribery offense of which Olmert was convicted in March is seven years, but so far the maximum sentence the courts have imposed is six years. Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen, who is presiding over the Holyland trial, set the bar when he sentenced David Vanunu, a high-ranking Tax Authority official convicted of graft, to six years in prison. At that time, officials at the State Prosecutor’s Office presented cases in which defendants convicted of graft, including former minister Shlomo Benizri, had served four-year sentences. But Rozen agreed to impose a harsher sentence on Vanunu: six years’ imprisonment for having received bribes amounting to NIS 300,000.

Former Judge Dan Cohen was convicted this year of having received bribes. As part of a plea bargain that resulted from a mediation procedure presided over by Rozen, he was sentenced to six years’ in prison for one count of accepting bribes in the Siemens affair. Asher Cohen, a high-ranking official at the Israel Electric Corporation, also received a six-year sentence. In another case, Kfar Sava Magistrate’s Court sentenced the former mayor of Tira to five years’ in prison for accepting bribes.

But Olmert’s defense attorneys are expected to present cases in which more lenient sentences were imposed. They will emphasize the fact that Olmert was convicted of accepting bribes as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of industry, trade and labor — not as prime minister. They will cite the sentence imposed on Haim Barbivai, the former mayor of Kiryat Shmona, who was convicted of taking bribes and given a suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 250,000.

At the sentencing phase of the Investment Center corruption affair, in which Olmert was convicted of breach of trust, Olmert chose not to bring character witnesses to Jerusalem District Court, contenting himself with the witnesses who had testified on his behalf during the trial. In the end, the judges, led by Judge Moussia Arad, the president of the court at the time, gave Olmert a suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 75,000, noting that they had taken into account the suffering he had endured in the Rishon tours and Talansky affairs, in which he was acquitted of corruption charges. They also noted his resignation from the premiership and his contribution to the country over many years.

In the Holyland trial, Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan is expected to testify on Olmert's behalf. Olmert recently asked Dagan to appear as a character witness for him and testify to his contribution to the state and its security, and Dagan agreed. Five or six character witnesses, including high-ranking officials who worked with Olmert in the Jerusalem municipality and a representative of his immediate family, who were not present at the trial, are expected to testify on his behalf.

At the request of his attorneys, Olmert’s sentence will be handed down before that of his former top aid, Shula Zaken, since the State Prosecutor’s Office and Zaken’s attorneys will ask to present new evidence against Olmert that she gave them to convince Rozen to carry out the plea bargain agreement that had been signed with her. According to the agreement, Zaken would serve an 11-month sentence.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues based on new evidence Zaken provided just before Olmert's conviction in the Holyland trial. The evidence raises suspicions of disruption of proceedings and coerced testimony by Olmert and his attorney, Navot Tel Tzur, in the trials in Jerusalem. Haaretz has learned that this week, businessman Alfred Akirov, who is close to Olmert, gave testimony to police for close to an hour regarding his employment of Zaken, allegedly at Olmert’s request. It is alleged that Olmert supported Zaken financially through Akirov in exchange for her silence.

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