[QODLink]
Middle East
Olmert faces new corruption charge
Former Israeli PM is suspected of taking $1 million in new bribery charges.
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2010 18:06 GMT
Olmert was already up against three
charges of corruption [File: EPA]

Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, who left office last year due to corruption charges, has been identified as a key suspect in separate bribery charges.

Police said on Thursday that Olmert, 63, was suspected in a case in which millions of dollars were exchanged for the promotion of real estate projects, including a controversal housing scheme in Jerusalem in which zoning laws had to be changed.

Olmert is suspected of taking almost $1m in bribes during the time of the Holyland residential project in the 1990s, when he was the mayor of Jerusalem.

A court confirmed the lifting of a gag order on the case on Thursday, meaning Olmert's identity in the case could be released.

Olmert said in a televised statement on Thursday that he was the victim of "character assassination" and that the charges were "baseless rumours".

"I have never been offered bribes and I never accepted bribes from anybody in any regard and in any way, directly or indirectly," he said.

Police have not yet questioned Olmert and no charges have been filed against him. They would not comment on when he may be questioned, although media reports suggest this will happen within coming days.

Testimony

Media reports also state that police have a state witness to testify against Olmert.

Another six other people suspected of bribing officials to allow construction to take place have previously been arrested. This included Uri Lupolianski, Olmert's successor as mayor of Jerusalem, and Uri Messer, Olmert's former associate, although no one has been charged.

The case has been billed as Israel's "real estate scandal of the century" in the local media. Olmert's picture had previously been placed next to the story in newspapers, although the gag order prevented the "public figure" allegedly involved from being named.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, in Jerusalem, said: "An investigating judge called it one of the worst corruption cases in the history of Israel.

"Police suspect that he benefitted from backhanders to change planning laws. Olmert is expected to speak later."

Olmert was already facing three different charges of corruption.

He was forced to step down as prime minister last year after police accused him of double and triple-billing Jewish organisations for trips abroad and taking the extra money.

However, police have said that the new charges are much bigger then those previously filed against him.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
join our mailing list