Olmert declared chief suspect in Holyland real estate case
Police say state witness secured in bribery affair; former prime minister's associate Messer released to 10-day house arrest; detention of elected J'lem Municipality official also announced.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks with Jeru Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski [file]
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect in the Holyland real estate scandal, police announced Thursday.
According to police suspicions,
between 1999 and 2008, the Holyland development company and
associated land development projects, then owned by businessman
Hillel Charni, paid tens of millions of shekels in bribes to senior public decision makers in the Jerusalem
Municipality, members of its planning and construction committee, the
Israel Lands Administration and others.
In exchange, the officials allegedly granted approval for the Holyland housing project in the Malha neighborhood
and additional developments in the North.
Police suspect that Olmert accepted bribes from businessmen and other interested parties.
There have been contradictory reports as to the amount in question, ranging from hundreds of thousands of shekels to millions.
According to media reports Olmert is the chief suspect in the scandal, and is expected to be questioned under warning in the next few days.
another top suspect in the affair, former Olmert associate Uri Messer,
was expected to be released to house arrest at a court hearing on
Thursday afternoon. Messer is suspected as acting as an intermediary
between bribe givers and takers and transferring hundreds of thousands
of shekels in bribes.
Police also said Thursday that they had
managed to secure a state witness in the affair, and announced the
arrest of another elected official,
who still serves in the capital's municipality.
official also serves as the director of a major construction firm
that was allegedly involved in the Holyland project.
was questioned on Wednesday night and was due to be brought for a
remand extension hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on
It comes a day after the detention of former
Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski in the case.
On Thursday morning, a senior
Jerusalem councilman said he suspected the Holyland real estate
affair was “just the start” and called on authorities to
investigate a number of other massive building projects he believes
may be tainted with corruption.
Councilman Meir Turgeman, the
head of the opposition faction in the Jerusalem municipal council,
told Israel Radio he fears plans to build at the YMCA compound, the
Gilo Uptown project and Mamilla neighborhood might have been approved
in return for kickbacks.
On Wednesday, the police
investigation into suspected massive bribery in the Holyland real
estate affair took a dramatic turn when detectives from the National
Fraud Unit arrested Lupolianski on suspicion of accepting more than
NIS 3 million in bribes to ensure that the housing plan was approved,
and of money laundering.