Ex-Israel Premier Charged With USD 390,000 Bribe

Ex-Israel Premier Charged With USD 390,000 Bribe
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was today charged with taking USD 390,000 as bribe in a major property scam, described as one of the largest corruption scandals in the country's history.

Seventeen others were also indicted in the case related to the construction of a luxury residential complex here called Holyland which is built on a prominent hilltop.

The allegations relate to Olmert's time as Jerusalem mayor in the 1990s. Olmert, who resigned as prime minister in 2009, has already been charged in three unrelated corruption cases. He denies any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors claim that millions of dollars changed hands illegally to facilitate a series of property deals.

In April 2010, prosecutors officially named Olmert as a key suspect in the Holyland scandal in which he is suspected of having taken bribes totalling some 1.5 million shekels (USD 390,000).

Jerusalem's planning laws were altered to enable the complex to be built. The project's developers have also been charged in the case.

Haaretz newspaper describes the case as one of the largest corruption scandals in Israel's history.

The former prime minister denies any wrongdoing and has called the investigation a "witch hunt".

Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993-2003, then became a minister in the Israeli cabinet. He took over as prime minister in 2006 after Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke.

His three-year premiership was dogged by corruption allegations, and he eventually agreed to stand down.

Olmert has pleaded not guilty in the separate proceedings against him, in which he is accused of taking cash for favours and double-billing for overseas trips.
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