JERUSALEM: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to months in prison for corruption on Monday, the latest legal blow in a spectacular fall from grace.
Lawyers for Olmert, who served as premier from 2006 to 2009, crowning a political career spanning decades, immediately announced they would appeal.
The 69-year-old already faces a six-year prison sentence handed down in a separate bribery case which is the subject of an appeal to the supreme court.
The Jerusalem district court convicted Olmert of fraud and corruption in March following a retrial over allegations that he had received envelopes of cash from a US businessman while trade and industry minister in the early 2000s.
Passing sentence, the three-judge bench said: “The conduct of Ehud Olmert merits a custodial sentence.
“A public servant — a minister — who receives cash payments in dollars, keeps them in a secret safe and uses them for personal purposes, is committing a crime which undermines the people’s confidence in public office”.
The judges also handed Olmert an additional suspended eight-month prison term and a 100,000-shekel (nearly $25,000) fine in what they said was a “light sentence in recognition of the contribution to the country made by Ehud Olmert.”
Olmert has always insisted on his innocence, describing the allegations against him as “a brutal, ruthless witch-hunt”.
His defence team said they would appeal against the judgement, as there was “no evidence of personal use by Olmert” of the money handed over by US businessman Morris Talansky.
The former premier had initially been acquitted of fraud and corruption in the case, escaping in 2012 with a $19,000 fine and a suspended jail sentence for breach of trust.
But new evidence came to light during his trial in the other corruption case, and prosecutors again pressed the charges.
In return for a reduction in sentence, his former secretary and confidante Shula Zaken brought to the court secret recordings of conversations she had with Olmert in which he is heard talking about the tens of thousands of dollars he had received.
The six-year prison sentence handed down against Olmert in May last year was the first ever against a former Israeli premier for corruption.
After a two-year trial, he was convicted of taking bribes of 560,000 shekels while mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003 from the developers of the city’s massive Holyland residential complex.