Court Acquits Olmert, Still Faces 'Holyland' Charges

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- In a first of its kind case, a former Israeli prime minister was found guilty of breach of trust on Tuesday but was acquitted in two other cases.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was all smiles Tuesday morning in court when a three-judge panel acquitted him of corruption charges in the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases. He was found guilty of breach of trust in the Investment Center case.

Olmert was forced to resign in 2009 after the attorney general filed several criminal indictments against him. He said the verdict vindicated him, and a few fellow Kadima members suggested he re-enter politics.

In the Talansky affair, Olmert was accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash-stuffed envelopes from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky.

Olmert told reporters today, "there were no envelopes of cash."

The court, however, said Talansky had given him the money, but it didn't constitute a criminal offense.

In the Rishon Tours case, Olmert was accused of double-billing flight reservations and using the extra funds to pay for his family's private trips.

In both cases, the judges ruled the prosecution had not proven its case "beyond a reasonable doubt" over the four-year trial.

The Investment Center case - which took place when Olmert served as industry, trade and labor minister - involved illegal handling of state grants and other benefits in connection with his close friend and attorney Uri Messer.

The ruling concluded Olmert had made decisions that "contradicted the opinions of professionals" in the ministry.

"The accused loved Messer and took care of him," the judges wrote.

Olmert is still facing charges in the Holyland construction project case -- one of the country's biggest corruption scandals ever.

The indictment, filed Jan. 4, charges Olmert with taking $470,000 in real estate deal bribes when he was mayor of Jerusalem. Seventeen others, including Olmert's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, and former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupoliansky, were also indicted. The trial began recently.

Last February, the court convicted Zaken on two counts of fraud and breach of trust for aiding Olmert in the Talansky affair and Rishon Tours case.

She was found guilty of using her position to promote her brother's business and sentenced to four months of community service. Her brother is serving seven months for bribery and breach of trust.

Zaken told reporters Tuesday she had not testified in Olmert's trial to protect her former boss.

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