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Former Israeli PM Olmert Sentenced to 8 Months in Prison

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (C) leaves Tel Aviv District Court, May 13, 2014.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison for accepting envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars from an American businessman a decade ago when he was Israel's trade and industry minister.

Several character witnesses, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Israel Mossad chief Meir Dagan, gave written statements supporting the 69-year-old Olmert. But a tribunal in Jerusalem said a Cabinet minister "who receives cash payments in dollars, keeps them in a secret safe and uses them for personal purposes, is committing a crime that undermines the people's confidence in public office."

New York businessman Morris Talansky testified he gave Olmert more than $600,000 during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor and Cabinet minister. Olmert was Israeli prime minister from 2006 to 2009.

Talansky, an Orthodox Jew, said the money was spent on expensive cigars, first-class travel and luxury hotels, but that he had received nothing in return.

Olmert is also facing a six-year prison sentence for a bribery conviction in a separate case in which he took more than $140,000 from the developers of Jerusalem's Holyland residential complex, while he was the city's mayor.

He remains free pending appeal of both verdicts, but would have to serve the two prison terms consecutively if they are upheld.

After Monday's ruling, one of Olmert's lawyers, Eyal Rozovsky, said the guilty verdict in the Talansky case "was not without faults."

But state prosecutor Uri Korev said, "The court has given a clear message today, a clear and loud message, by which a black flag is waving above the immoral and corrupted deeds" of Olmert.