Two years and a half after he walked free, and seven months after the case was reopened, Yerushalayim District Court on Monday found former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert guilty in the so-called Talansky case, in which he was accused of accepting envelopes filled with money from an American businessman.
The case was reopened after Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken handed over incriminating recordings as part of a plea bargain. The recordings appear to prove that Olmert used the money Talanksy gave him for personal use – contrary to what he claimed.
The ruling was handed down by judges Yaakov Saban and Moshe Sobel (who were on the panel that previously exonerated Olmert) and Rivka Friedman Feldman (who is replacing retired justice Moussia Arad).
“Shula Zaken’s diaries have relevant content, have real weight,” the judges wrote in their ruling Monday morning. “On two occasions during this period, Zaken received money from these funds. This was an annual addition to her salary.” They determined that the diaries and recordings were admissible as evidence.
According to the indictment, Talansky gave Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars, one hundred thousand of which was in envelopes, during his stints as mayor of Jerusalem and minister of trade and industry. In return, Olmert allegedly promoted Talansky’s business interests ahead of others.
The charge sheet claimed that the money went into a secret fund managed by Olmert’s associate Uri Messer.
Olmert’s defense team is expected to file an appeal with the Supreme Court in the wake of the decision. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, had still to rule on the prosecution’s appeal against Olmert’s previous exoneration.
In the ruling, the judges said that the new evidence had now led them to believe that Olmert had misled the state comptroller about the existence of the money.
“The defendant had been required to declare this asset to the state comptroller. Failure to report it prevented an inspection and thus proves causal connection. His actions to convince Zaken to present the money as political funding indicate awareness,” they wrote.
In her own opinion, Judge Feldman wrote that she agreed with the verdict, but noted, “There were enough factual findings in the original verdict to convict the defendant.”