Former Israeli prime minister Olmert indicted

JERUSALEM - August 30, 2009 Olmert, who stepped down earlier this year over the corruption issue, is accused of illegally accepting funds from an American backer, double-billing for trips abroad and concealing funds from a government watchdog.

He faces charges that include fraud and breach of trust.

The charges filed in a Jerusalem court on Sunday first surfaced when Olmert was still prime minister. Olmert allegedly committed the offenses while serving as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a Cabinet minister - all before being elected prime minister in 2006.

Olmert, who denies any wrongdoing, issued a statement through a spokesman saying he was confident his name would be cleared. "Olmert is convinced that in the court he will be able to prove his innocence once and for all," the statement said.

Olmert could face years in prison if convicted. In a sign of what could be in store for Olmert if convicted, two former Cabinet ministers recently sentenced in separate corruption cases have received multiple-year prison sentences. A former finance minister - an Olmert confidant and appointee - was sentenced to five years for embezzlement in June, and another Cabinet minister was sentenced to four years for taking bribes.

The case that did the most damage to Olmert when he was still in office involved funds he allegedly accepted from Moshe Talansky, an American businessman who allegedly funneled large amounts of money to Olmert in cash-stuffed envelopes. Talansky's testimony last year helped turn public opinion against Olmert and played a large part in forcing him from office.

The indictment said Olmert used his connections to help Talansky's business, but did not charge Olmert with accepting bribes.

In another case, Olmert was charged with double-billing nonprofit organizations and the government for trips he took abroad and then using the extra money to pay for private trips for his family.

Olmert was replaced as prime minister in March by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. He left politics and is currently a private citizen.

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