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Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Sunday, 30 August 2009 16:52 UK

Former Israeli PM Olmert charged

Ehud Olmert in July 2008
Mr Olmert quit as prime minister in September 2008

The former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted in three corruption cases, the attorney general's office says.

Mr Olmert has been embroiled in a number of corruption scandals but denies any wrongdoing in all the cases.

The former head of the Kadima party was replaced as prime minister by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu following general elections in February.

The series of probes was a key factor in Mr Olmert's resignation last year.

The charges relate to the periods when Mr Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister, but before he became prime minister in 2006.

On Sunday he issued a statement through a spokesman that said: "Olmert is convinced that in the court he will be able to prove his innocence once and for all."

Talansky case

The office of Attorney General Menahem Mazuz confirmed in a statement he had decided to press charges and that the charge sheet had been presented on Sunday in Jerusalem district court.

ANALYSIS
Tim Franks

Tim Franks, BBC News, Jerusalem



Ehud Olmert became prime minister in 2006. That year, he took Israel to war against the Islamist Hezbollah movement in Lebanon - and largely as a result of the way in which that war was waged, his popularity in Israel nosedived.

He won back some support in the wake of the three-week war in Gaza this year. He also spent a good deal of his time in office in negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at the end of which there was no visible progress.

Israelis are split over what this episode tells them about their politicians. Many believe that the political class is the lousiest in Israel's short history.

But some insist the very fact a prime minister can be pushed to resign over allegations of corruption shows a robust democracy.

The 61-page charge sheet lays out accusations of "fraud, breach of trust, registering false corporate documents and concealing fraudulent earnings".

Mr Olmert is the first former prime minister in Israeli history to face criminal charges, the office said.

Mr Olmert's personal secretary, Shula Zaken, has also been charged with corruption.

One of the charges against Mr Olmert is that he accepted cash envelopes from US businessman Morris Talansky with sums amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Olmert admits taking money, but insists the funds were legal donations to help his campaigns for re-election as mayor of Jerusalem and for the leadership of the Likud, his former party.

In the second case, Mr Olmert is accused of duplicating funding for his trips abroad.

Police have said they suspect the "considerable sums" that remained after the travel expenses were paid for were transferred by Mr Olmert to a special account his travel agency administered for him.

EHUD OLMERT'S POLITICAL LIFE
1993: Begins 10-year stint as mayor of Jerusalem
2005: Leaves right-wing Likud party with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form Kadima
2006: Takes over as leader when Ariel Sharon suffers a stroke
2007: Helps re-launch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after seven-year hiatus
2008: Announces plans to resign
March 2009: Replaced as PM by Benjamin Netanyahu

The third case involves alleged conflict of interest. Officials have alleged Mr Olmert arranged investment opportunities for a friend, Uri Messner, while he was industry minister.

This summer, the attorney-general closed a number of other corruption cases against Mr Olmert, citing lack of evidence.

Israel's justice ministry has refused to confirm the length of sentence Mr Olmert could face if found guilty.

However, the BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says two former cabinet ministers were recently sentenced to several years in jail for bribery and embezzlement, so Mr Olmert could face years in prison if convicted.

Mr Olmert became prime minister in May 2006 after serving for several months as acting PM when Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke and entered a coma.



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SEE ALSO
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Police drop Olmert bribery case
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Profile: Ehud Olmert
30 Aug 09 |  Middle East
Police question Israeli PM again
02 Oct 08 |  Middle East



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