All the charges concern actions Olmert allegedly took before he became prime minister in May 2006, first as mayor of Jerusalem and later as trade and industry minister.

Allegations

Olmert is accused of unlawfully accepting gifts of cash-stuffed envelopes from Morris Talansky, a Jewish-American businessman, and of multiple-billing for foreign trips.

He has also been charged with cronyism in relation to an investment centre he oversaw when he was minister of trade and industry between 2003 and 2006.

Menahem Mazuz, the Israeli attorney-general, dropped three other corruption investigations. But in his final months in office, Olmert was subjected to repeated  police interrogations, which prompted a wave of calls for him to step down.

Israel has been dogged by scandals involving public officials in recent years, with three former ministers handed prison sentences and both of the country's most recent former presidents resigning in disgrace.

But Olmert is the first former prime minister to face criminal charges.

In August, police recommended that Avigdor Lieberman, the current foreign minister, be indicted for bribery, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Moshe Katsav, the former president, is on trial on several counts of rape, sexual harassment and indecent acts.

And on September 1, Avraham Hirshon and Shlomo Benizri, both ex-cabinet ministers, went to jail, the former for embezzling one million dollars and the latter for bribery and fraud.