Charged with fraud, breach of public trust
Israeli prosecutors charged former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday with fraud and breach of public trust in three separate corruption scandals dating to his term as mayor of Jerusalem. According to the 61-page indictment, Olmert—who was forced from office nearly a year ago because of the investigation—overcharged state agencies and nonprofit groups for business travel and, perhaps more damningly, freely traded his influence as a politician to promote the business interests of his own donors and of his associates’ clients. (He is not, however, facing charges of bribery.) Olmert’s lawyers, who had plenty of time to prepare their response as the probe dragged on, immediately responded by welcoming the chance to refute the allegations in court. Olmert attorney Navot Tel-Tzur told Israel Radio this morning that the case will be “an embarrassment to prosecutors.”
Not, however, before it has become an embarrassment to Israel: Olmert now has the dubious distinction of being the first Israeli premier to be criminally indicted. He is hardly, however, the first senior pol to face charges—after all, Israel’s former president, Moshe Katsav, is currently being tried on rape and sexual harassment charges.