Ex official arrested in Holyland probe

Police arrested Beit Shemesh Municipality director and former Interior Ministry official Moti (Matityahu) Huta.

May 5, 2010 23:24
2 minute read.
The Holyland real estate project (Ariel Jerozolims

HOLYLAND 58. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Police arrested Beit Shemesh Municipality director and former Interior Ministry official Moti (Matityahu) Huta on Wednesday on suspicion of bribery offenses in the Holyland corruption investigation.

Huta served as chairman of the Interior Ministry’s Planning and Construction Committee, Jerusalem District, as well as chairman of the Jerusalem Appeals Deputy Committee between 1996 and 2004. He repeatedly expressed support for an enlarged Holyland real estate development during that time.

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Police suspect that Huta’s endorsement of Holyland came after he “demanded and received bribes from Holyland backers, as well as backers from other projects.”

“In exchange, the suspect acted systematically to promote the Holyland construction project and other projects in Jerusalem in the District Committee, in accordance with the wishes of backers,” a police representative said during a remand hearing for Huta at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Detectives from the National Fraud Unit detained Huta at his Beit Shemesh office at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, formally arresting him three hours later. According to Huta’s attorney, Avi Odiz, police suspect Huta of being in contact with property developer Meir Rabin, who is suspected of having transferred millions in bribes from Holyland backers to public officials.

Police believe that businessmen backing Holyland paid tens of millions of shekels in bribes to public officials to ensure that the plan received approval.

“My client chose to support the project on principle, and that’s what he told police,” Odiz said in court.

The remand hearing revealed that Huta had repeatedly expressed support for Holyland in the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee, and made an appearance before the Interior Ministry’s National Planning and Construction Committee to argue in favor of Holyland in the face of objections to the plan.

But Odiz insisted that none of his client’s actions proved that he had been bribed.

“I have asked my client not to answer any further questions by police until he is shown documents from the committee meetings,” Odiz said.

Judge Irit Weinberg-Notovitz said that after viewing the police’s classified case material, she was reasonably satisfied that “the suspect carried out the acts [attributed to him],” and extended his remand by five days.

“The investigation is complex, and it is branching off [into several directions]. It appears to be a long way from being complete,” the judge added.

Meanwhile, a Petah Tikva District Court rejected an appeal by Rabin against an extension of his remand on Wednesday.

During the court session, Rabin’s attorney claimed prison wardens were preventing his client from praying. Police said they would look into the claim.

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