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Former Israeli PM Olmert guilty of graft

An Israeli court has found former premier Ehud Olmert guilty of corruption for accepting bribes before he became prime minister. This came three years after he had been acquitted in the original trial.

A panel of judges at the Jerusalem District Court on Monday found Olmert (69) guilty of fraud and breach of trust for taking the equivalent of $600,000 (552,000 euros) from a Jewish-American businessman while he was Mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003, as well as further funds and when he was minister of industry, trade and labor from 2003 to 2006. Olmert is reported to have accepted at least some of the monies in envelopes containing cash.

Olmert, who is

already facing a six-year jail sentence after being convicted in a separate bribery case,

could face a maximum of five additional years in prison after Monday's conviction.

"His behavior constitutes a breach of trust which harms the public, harms morality, and harms the public's trust, in how he behaved corruptly," prosecutor Uri Korev said following the verdict.

Eyal Rozovsky, a member of Olmert's defense said that they were "of course very disappointed at the ruling," and that they would review it with a view to launching an appeal.

The court was not expected to announce a sentence for several weeks.

Fresh evidence leads to retrial

Olmert had been acquitted of the most serious charges in the original case in 2012. However, fresh evidence came to light during the other corruption case against him and public prosecutors decided to press the more serious charges against the former premier.

The prosecution's case was strengthened when Olmert's former secretary and confidante, Shula Zaken, agreed to testify against her former boss and made public tape recordings of conversations between the two of them about the funds Olmert was alleged to have received from the American businessman representing the developers of

Jerusalem's Holyland Park residential complex.

The six-year sentence, handed down in

May of last year, was the first ever against an Israeli premier,

however, he has not been imprisoned while his appeal of the verdict is ongoing.

Olmert became prime minister in 2006, first taking the job on a caretaker basis after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke. He stepped down in 2008 after police recommended that several corruption charges be brought against him.

pfd/lw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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