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State files closing arguments against Olmert, Zaken in Holyland trial
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
31/12/2013
A central goal for the prosecution is to hold Olmert accountable for bribes that his aide allegedly received on Olmert’s behalf.
 
The prosecution filed its closing arguments on Monday in the Holyland trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his top aide, Shula Zaken.

The 122-page document said that it had successfully presented the court with evidence that Olmert, Zaken and now-deceased state witness Shmuel Duchner had “corrupt give-and-take relations” relating to the case.

The Holyland trial concerns what is alleged to be the greatest fraud and bribery scheme in the country’s history.

Duchner and his alleged boss/ mastermind, businessman Hillel Cherny, are charged with bribing a vast array of officials to smooth over legal and zoning barriers for the Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem.

The trial involves 16 defendants, including such notables as former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner.

A central goal for the prosecution is to hold Olmert accountable for bribes that Zaken allegedly received on Olmert’s behalf.

The prosecution said that Zaken had admitted to being Olmert’s proxy by saying she had “dedicated her life” to serving Olmert.

Olmert is accused of accepting over NIS 1.5 million in bribes (out of around NIS 9 million given to public officials in total), either directly from Duchner or through Zaken and Olmert’s brother Yossi. The alleged bribes are mostly from 1993-1999, while Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem, but extend into his time as a minister in 2003.

Duchner testified that Zaken in one instance requested emergency assistance to pay a NIS 50,000 debt, to which he responded by giving Olmert’s driver $10,000 that he had on hand having just returned from abroad. Duchner also recounted instances in which he said he had given up to NIS 350,000 in funds directly to Zaken to pay for her jewelry and furniture.

The prosecution noted that Olmert’s brother, Yossi, had confirmed in his initial statements to police that Duchner gave him NIS 500,000 in 2002- 2003 at Ehud’s request, as another bribe for helping move the Holyland project forward.

Much of the prosecution’s case focuses on eliminating Olmert’s non-criminal explanations for these activities, which even Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen referred to as suspicious.

For example, Olmert called Duchner miserly about money, as part of his narrative that he kept his distance from Duchner and was not close enough to him to have been bribed. But the prosecution said it was totally unbelievable for Olmert to say he barely knew Duchner, but to know Duchner well enough to label him a “miser.”

The prosecution will file closing arguments on other defendants in the near future.
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