Messer put on suicide watch in custody

Court rejects former Olmert associate's appeal against remand in bribery case.

April 8, 2010 17:35
1 minute read.
Ori Messer

ori messer low quality 311. (photo credit: Channel 10 )

A former associate of ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert was put on suicide watch on Thursday in the Nitzan lock-up, where he was remanded in custody for his alleged part in a massive bribery case.

Security was tightened around attorney Uri Messer following reports of past suicide attempts.

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The Petah Tikva District Court ruled on Thursday that Messer would remain in custody until April 11, rejecting his appeal against his remand extension.

Messer was remanded in custody for six days on Wednesday and three other suspects for four days, in what law enforcement sources described as an unprecedented real estate bribery scam.

The court ruled that the remands would stand so that the investigation can proceed unhindered.

Messer’s lawyer, Shimon Dolan, criticized the decision, saying if his client wanted to obstruct justice he could have done so long ago, since he has been questioned about the allegations for months.

According to investigators, land developers allegedly paid large bribes to public officials to gain approval for projects built by the Holyland real estate company in Jerusalem, and associated development projects in the North.

A comprehensive media ban on the investigation was partially lifted by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, allowing for some details of the affair to be publicized, though others remain under wraps.

According to police suspicions, between 1999 and 2008, the Holyland company and other land development companies, then owned by businessman Hillel Charni, paid tens of millions of shekels in bribes to senior decision-makers.

In one major alleged scam, key members of the Jerusalem Municipality, including members of its planning and construction committee, received large sums in exchange for their approval for the Holyland housing project, which towers above the city’s southwestern neighborhoods.

Bribes allegedly bought approval to rezone and significantly increase building rights at the site.

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