Olmert found guilty in retrial of Talansky Affair

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty in the retrial a case in which he was accused of accepting envelopes full of cash from U.S. Jewish businessman Morris Talansky.

A three-judge panel of the Jerusalem District Court announced the verdict in the so-called Talansky Affair on Monday.

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the new trial last month in order to allow the introduction of new testimony from Olmert’s former assistant Shula Zaken, including recordings of incriminating conversations between Olmert and Zaken, who provided the information last spring as part of a plea bargain.  The recordings showed that Olmert used the money Talanksy gave him for personal, not political, use.

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Olmert did not testify during the retrial. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5, and faces up to five years in prison, though is more likely to receive a shorter prison sentence or community service.

In 2012, the same court acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. He was found guilty on a lesser charge of breach of trust in what was known as the Investment Center case.

Olmert was accused of allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky; and allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case. The charges were filed after he became prime minister in 2006, but covered his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a government minister.

He officially resigned as prime minister in 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted, and remained in power until national elections in February 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu was elected.

Zaken was convicted on two counts of fraudulently obtaining benefits and fraud, and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case.

Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes in the real estate scam known as the Holyland Affair and ordered to report to prison on Sept. 1, 2014. The prison date was suspended pending his appeal.

Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to be sentenced to prison.