(photo credit: INIMAGE)
An expanded five-justice panel of the Supreme Court heard the second day of appeals of the Holyland defendants to overturn their bribery convictions on Wednesday, a group that includes former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner and a range of other top politicians and business leaders.
The first day of appeals arguments on Monday included former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and several others.
Olmert was convicted on two counts of bribery by Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen in March and sentenced to six years in prison in May.
Dankner, the main focus on Wednesday, was sentenced to three years in prison for his conviction on bribery and money-laundering charges in the Holyland real estate trial.
The primary case against him was on three counts of bribery for transferring a total of NIS 1.3 million to Meir Rabin, the personal assistant of Shmuel Duchner, who directed the bribing of public officials in the affair.
The money Dankner gave to Rabin was passed on to Ya’akov Efrati, former Israel Lands Authority chief, so that he would make favorable land rulings for Dankner.
Dankner was also convicted of receiving false receipts from Rabin for the money transfers and displaying them as earnings in Israel Salt Industries’ books.
His money-laundering conviction came from his presenting money given to Duchner’s companies as salary or advances on salary.
Dankner was sentenced to two years’ probation, fined NIS 500,000 and to have NIS 1 million in assets seized.
The former powerful bank chairman “used his position as a member of Israel Salt Industries’ board of directors to transfer hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribe money,” Rozen said ahead of sentencing.
In dramatic fashion, Dankner arrived at his appeal dressed in the orange jumpsuit style clothing that regular prisoners wear, as he is in the middle of an eightmonth prison sentence that started in August on a separate conviction for breach of public trust.
Though it was expected that Olmert’s defense team’s oral argument would begin on Monday, it was delayed until Wednesday and then delayed again until Thursday.
Justices Salim Joubran, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman, Isaac Amit and Zvi Zylbertal are hearing the case.
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis is not on the panel since he is retiring at the end of the year and might not be able to finish the case.
The Holyland trial involved 16 defendants, 13 of whom were convicted of participating in the biggest bribery scheme in the state’s history.
Most of the defendants were powerful Jerusalem public servants who took bribes to smooth over legal and zoning obstacles for the Holyland real estate project.
Dankner’s lawyer Jacob Weinroth slammed Rozen’s conviction and sentencing of Dankner. He said paying lobbyists such as Rabin to help his business interests was an old tradition and that Dankner had not known anything about a bribery scheme.
Weinroth added that Rozen’s decisions were faulty because they relied substantially on Duchner, who turned state’s witness against those with who he formerly conducted the bribery scheme.
The lawyer said that both because everyone admitted that Duchner lied and forged documents and because Dankner’s lawyers did not get to cross-examine him before his death mid-trial in March 2013, it should be “prohibited to touch it [his testimony] even with a stick.”
Amit shot back that the state had proved its case also using receipts and other documents that were completely independent of Duchner, but which confirmed his accusations against Dankner.
Finally, Weinroth said the case was too important to have left to one judge and that the conviction should be thrown out because it was not rendered by a threejudge panel as some major cases are.
Rabin also made his appeal on Wednesday after three other defendants made their oral appeals on Monday.