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Israel Supreme Court reduces prison sentence for former PM Olmert

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday reduced the prison sentence of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from six years to 18 months. 

Olmert was convicted in March 2014 and sentenced to six years imprisonment on several charges dealing with bribery. The ruling by the court overturned the main bribery charge but upheld the lesser charge of taking a 60,000 shekel (USD $15,000) bribe. His sentence was postponed pending the appeal of his conviction. Olmert was accused of accepting money to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem when he was mayor and the country's trade minister. He was forced to resign in 2009 amid the bribery charges, but has always denied any wrongdoing on his part. Olmert is scheduled to begin his reduced sentence on February 15.

In July 2012 Olmert was acquitted of two major counts of corruption but found guilty of a third lesser charge in the culmination of a three-year trial. In a 700-page ruling, three senior judges of a Jerusalem court rejected the prosecution's key accusations that as a cabinet minister and Jerusalem's mayor before becoming Prime Minister Olmert received bribes from US businessman Moshe Talansky, and that Olmert defrauded Israeli charities by double-billing them for overseas fundraising trips, a charge popularly referred to as the Rishon Tours double-billing affair. Olmert was convicted of breach of trust for granting illegal favors to a long-time friend and business partner while serving as minister of industry, trade and labor between 2002 and 2007. In September 2012 the court sentenced Olmert to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of about $19,000 for the charge of breaching public trust.

Source: JURIST 

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Zimbabwe to amend economic indigenization law

Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday announced amendments to the nation's foreign investor law in an effort to stimulate Zimbabwe's stagnant economy. 

The ambiguously-worded Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act of 2007 [Chapter 14:33] required all foreign companies to transfer majority ownership into the hands of Zimbabwean citizens. Some feel that President Robert Mugabe's plan to force power into the hands of Zimbabwe's citizens has soured, as other reforms such as land redistribution have largely failed as well. The new amendments loosen the investment requirement, allowing foreign entities to hold majority stock in businesses for up to five years, with an exception of up to 20 years in the energy sector. The amendments have not been well received by everyone in government, however, as Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Patrick Zhuwao decried foreign investment as being solely interested in exploiting the nation's natural resources.

Mugabe's presidency has received criticism in other areas as well. In April, the EU General Court upheld sanctions placed on individuals and companies in Zimbabwe, first imposed in 2002, as a result of the EU's concerns regarding pre-election violence and "serious infringements of human rights" committed by the government of Zimbabwe. In January Amnesty International urged Mugabe to address human rights concerns in Zimbabwe and other parts of the African continent. Also in January Zimbabwe's High Court ordered an immediate halt to the demolition of the homes of farmers who were evicted to clear space for a game park envisioned by First Lady Grace Mugabe. In September 2013 the high court ordered the release of 21 activist members of the opposition party that had been detained for over two years.

Source: JURIST

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Brazil begins presidential impeachment proceedings

Impeachment proceedings were opened against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday for allegations of violating fiscal laws and manipulating finances. Rousseff's political enemy and speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha accepted a request from opposition lawyers to begin the impeachment process. Rousseff denies any wrongdoing and "received with indignation" the decision. A committee from the lower house of congress will vote on Rousseff's impeachment. If two-thirds vote for impeachment, the case will move to the Senate for a 90-day trial. Cunha himself is currently under investigation for corruption allegations and accepting bribes.

Brazil has been the subject of several corruption scandals in both politics and business in recent years. In October, Brazil's Federal Accounts Court determined that Rousseff's government accounting practices were illegal. In September a Brazil court sentenced former treasurer of the country's governing Worker's Party Joao Vaccari Neto to 15 years and four months in jail for charges stemming from his connection to the Petrobras corruption scandal. Vaccari was found guilty of corruption, money laundering and conspiracy, having accepted at least USD $1 million in bribes from the oil company. Earlier in September the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil banned corporate entities from providing funding to political candidates in the future in an attempt to prevent further corruption, calling the practice unconstitutional.

Source: JURIST

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