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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Former Israeli PM indicted on bribery charges...

Former Israeli Premier Is Indicted on Bribery Charge
Published: January 5, 2012

JERUSALEM — Ehud Olmert, who resigned as prime minister of Israel in 2008 amid corruption charges, was indicted Thursday and charged with taking bribes in the construction of a huge residential complex while he was the mayor of Jerusalem.

Mr. Olmert, who is already on trial for three unrelated counts of fraud and breach of trust from before his tenure as prime minister, has denied all wrongdoing. In the newest — and by far the most serious — indictment, he is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to smooth the way for construction of the Holyland, an enormous hulk of a residential complex in southwestern Jerusalem.

When the case was first made public nearly two years ago, the presiding judge called it “one of the worst corruption affairs in Israeli history.”

The Holyland is built on a ridge with interlocking apartment buildings and one outsize tower that dominates the landscape for miles and is widely considered an eyesore. Jerusalem residents commonly call it “the monster.”

Millions of dollars in bribes are thought to have been paid to allow the project to go up in a hurry and to grow to more than 12 times the height granted in the original permits. Mr. Olmert was the mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and then was the government minister with oversight over the Israel Lands Authority.

In the Holyland indictment, Mr. Olmert was among a number of people charged. The others include another former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, and the former director of the Israel Lands Authority, Yaakov Efrati.

Mr. Olmert became acting prime minister in early 2006 when Ariel Sharon had a debilitating stroke. He then ran as the head of the Kadima Party and was elected prime minister. He resigned in September 2008 after the police recommended that he be indicted in several cases of corruption. He became acting prime minister until elections in early 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party formed the current government.

Mr. Olmert’s other indictments relate to charges that he accepted envelopes of cash from an American businessman and that he double-billed Israeli organizations for trips abroad, all before his election as prime minister.
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