JERUSALEM - Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday of unlawfully accepting money from a U.S. supporter in a retrial on corruption charges, the latest chapter in the downfall of a man who only years earlier hoped to lead the country to a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The conviction could land Olmert five years in prison, in addition to a six-year prison sentence he received last year in a separate bribery conviction, all but ensuring the former premier will not return to politics for many years to come.
"His behavior constitutes a breach of trust which harms the public, harms morality, and harms the public's trust, in how he behaved corruptly," prosecutor Uri Korev said after the verdict.
Olmert's attorneys said they would likely appeal the ruling by the Jerusalem District Court. A sentencing hearing is to take place in May.
Olmert has claimed he was on the brink of a historic deal with the Palestinians when he was forced to resign in early 2009 amid corruption allegations. His departure cleared the way for Benjamin Netanyahu's election, and subsequent peace efforts have failed.
Olmert, 69, was acquitted in 2012 of a series of charges that included accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister. Olmert was found to have received about $600,000 from Talansky during his term as mayor, and additional amounts in cash during his term as a cabinet minister, but a court did not find evidence the money had been used for unlawful personal reasons or illegal campaign financing.
But Olmert's former office manager and confidant Shula Zaken later became a state's witness, offering diary entries and tape recordings of conversations with Olmert about illicitly receiving cash, leading to a retrial. In the recordings, Olmert is heard telling Zaken not to testify in the first trial so she would not incriminate him.
On Monday, a panel of judges at the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Olmert had accepted $153,950 from Talansky when he was a cabinet minister, with the money kept hidden in a safe by an Olmert aide.
The judges convicted Olmert on a serious charge of illicitly receiving money, as well as charges of fraud and breach of trust.