Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was named a primary suspect Thursday in the expanding corruption probe over the construction of a residential real estate development called Holyland, according to Israel Radio, citing police sources.
Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, is suspected of receiving large amounts of money as bribes while he was the mayor of Jerusalem to facilitate the Jerusalem real estate development project.
The naming of Olmert as a suspect comes a day after the former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation. Six other people were arrested last week in connection with the scandal, including Olmert aide Uri Messer.
Olmert, who was overseas, returned to Israel Wednesday night in light of the probe. On Thursday, he said he had "been the victim of a character assassination that is utterly without parallel."
"I and my family my wife my children have all been affected by the terrible lies that have been circulated that have no basis what so ever," he said, adding that while he had supported the Holyland project, the "plan was completely changed after I left office as mayor and I had nothing to do with it."
Olmert went on trial on separate corruption charges in September. He said then that he was innocent. Olmert was indicted on a variety of corruption charges in an investigation that dogged his last months in office.
Olmert announced his resignation in September 2008, after the corruption investigation deepened, and left office after a new government took power in March 2009.
Prosecutors accuse Olmert of double-billing government agencies for travel, taking cash from an American businessman in exchange for official favors, and acting on behalf of his former law partner's clients.
That trial continues.