Former PM Ehud Olmert .
(photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)
For the first time since his conviction on bribery and corruption charges last year, former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Monday admitted to obstruction of justice in coordination with his former top aide as part of a plea bargain bid to reduce his prison sentence.
Olmert admitted to obstructing justice with former confidante Shula Zaken in both the Talansky and Holyland affairs, in an effort to persuade the prosecution to agreed to a six-month jail sentence and a NIS 50,000 fine, on condition the six months would run concurrent with his 18-month Holyland sentence, so it would not actually add further jail time.
However, Olmert and the state prosecution could not reach a deal on the Talansky, Rishon Tours and Investment affairs, which means that Tuesday’s hearing of their competing appeals before the Supreme Court will go forward.
Reportedly, the sides split over whether any prison sentence Olmert would agree to would run concurrently with his 18-month Holyland sentence or be added on to the sentence.
In May, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Olmert to eight months in prison following his conviction in the Talansky Affair retrial, a case that consisted of Olmert illegally receiving, using and concealing at least $153,950 in cash from New York businessman Morris Talansky between 1993 and 2002.
The sentence for the Talansky Affair was his second conviction, for which he is due to serve 18 months for the Holyland real estate corruption case. The Supreme Court reduced his original sentence on appeal from six years.
But the state has appealed other cases in which Olmert has been acquitted, such as the Rishon Tours Affair, in which Olmert has been accused of double-billing organizations for reimbursements for international flights.
Without a plea bargain, Olmert faces potential additional prison time if the Supreme Court reverses his Rishon Tours Affair acquittal.
In the Investment Affair, Olmert was convicted of granting of favors in his capacity as a minister to his confidant Uri Messer, despite a conflict of interest. Olmert received a sentence of six months of community service, which the state has also appealed.
A Supreme Court order for a retrial of these cases came after shocking new recordings emerged last year suggesting that Olmert might have been illegally plotting with his former aide of 30 years, Zaken, regarding the handling of his original trial.
Zaken refused to testify in the first trial and perjured herself on Olmert’s behalf during the Holyland trial, without letting on about the existence of the recordings until these cases were being appealed, and she became embroiled in negotiating a separate deal with prosecutors.
Olmert admitted to telling Zaken not to testify in the first trial and to not cut a deal with the prosecution in the Holyland trial. He told her, “If I am not acquitted, no one will be acquitted.”
He also offered to arrange for her to be paid large sums of money, including having her legal fees covered.
Zaken listened to him and refused a plea bargain before taking the stand in the Holyland trial.