In a new twist to the Ehud Olmert corruption saga, the former prime minister and
12 others were indicted on Thursday on allegations of giving and receiving
bribes in one of the largest corruption scandals in the state’s
The 112-page indictment, filed in the Tel Aviv District Court,
charges that Holyland real-estate developers paid tens of millions of shekels to
public employees and elected officials to advance its project in Jerusalem,
including substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over planning
objections, rezoning land, extending tax breaks and increasing the size of the
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During the time the Holyland and Salt Industries
affairs allegedly took place, Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and then minister of
industry, trade and labor.
Those indicted along with Olmert include Uri
Lupolianski, former Jerusalem mayor and former chairman of the Jerusalem
Municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee; former deputy mayor and city
councilman Eliezer Shamhiof; Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken; former city councilman Avraham Finer; and former city
engineer Uri Sheetrit.
Also charged are businessman Hillel Cherny, who
owned rights to the land used in the Holyland project, former Polar Investments
CEO Avigdor Kelner, who owns a stake in Holyland, Polar Investments manager
Amnon Safran, Shimon Galon, the CEO of Kardan Real Estate, which also owned a
stake in the project, and Jerusalem entrepreneur Meir Rabin.
companies are named on the indictment: Holyland Tayerut Ltd, which is owned by
Polar Investments, Holyland Park Ltd and Holyland Leisure Services Ltd, for
which Cherny serves as director.
The indictment includes charges against
Dan Dankner, former chairman of Bank Hapoalim and Israel Salt Industries; and
former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov Efrati, for allegedly giving and
receiving bribes to rezone salt flats in Atlit and Eilat.
There are also
charges relating to alleged bribes that took place in other parts of the
country, including the promotion of Polar Investments’ real estate interests in
Yavor Farm, Shalem Farm and Mevchur Farm north of Kiryat Gat.
prosecutors filed a request that the case be tried before a panel of three
judges, rather than a single judge.
Later on Thursday, the Tel Aviv
District Court agreed to an additional prosecution request to impose a gag order
preventing the publication of any identifying detail relating to the central
state witness, a businessman who allegedly acted as a middleman for the
According to the indictment, in the 1990s Cherny decided to
acquire residential building rights in order to create a large neighborhood in
place of the former 100-room Holyland Hotel, by changing the land’s zoning
status from a hotel to a residential area.
He did so, the indictment
charges, to increase the amount of construction permitted on the land, and to
reduce his costs in establishing the real estate project.
Together with a
real estate entrepreneur, known only as “S.D.,” Cherny is alleged to have
devised a multi-stage scheme to have the zoning changed. To gain approval for
his plans, Cherny knew he would need the full support of elected officials,
senior Jerusalem municipal employees and the planning authorities, the
Between 1994 and 2007, Cherny and S.D. allegedly
collaborated with Jerusalem entrepreneur Rabin to provide financial and other
benefits to those officials responsible for promoting construction and planning
processes, in return for advancing their real estate project.
after bribing officials, most of the land was rezoned from hotel to residential
use, the indictment charges, and Cherny sold part of the land to Kelner and
Safran from Polar Investments, and to Galon from Kardan Real Estate.
indictment charges that between 2003 and 2007, millions of shekels were given in
bribes to a long list of elected and public officials in the Jerusalem
Municipality, including Lupolianski, Sheetrit, Olmert and Zaken, in order to
continue to promote the Holyland project.
A separate charge relates to
Olmert’s tenure as minister of industry, trade and labor. The indictment alleges
that Kelner, Safran and Rabin also acted to advance projects in the Shalem,
Yavor and Mevchur farms by providing financial benefits to Olmert and his
then-bureau chief, Zaken.
Between 2002 and 2005, Kelner and Safran
allegedly transferred NIS 1.7 million via their management companies to S.D. and
Rabin, to be used as bribes to promote improvements on the land.
and Zaken are alleged to have taken financial and other bribes worth around NIS
200,000, knowing the money was meant to advance the interests of Kelner and
The third charge relates to Dankner and his company, Israel Salt
According to the indictment, starting in the mid-’90s,
Dankner acted to advance a land settlement signed between Israel Salt Industries
and the Israel Lands Authority, to rezone land in Atlit and Eilat for
residential and tourism use, and to provide his company with rights to the land
after the rezoning.
Dankner and Rabin are alleged to have bribed then-
ILA chief Efrati, who is charged with taking around NIS 45,000 in handouts to
advance the rezoning.
According to the Justice Ministry, the
investigation into the Holyland affair involved 150 investigators from the
police’s Lahav 433 National Fraud Unit and the Tax Authority.
2010, after the police went undercover, it began an overt probe, and by August
2010 transferred the case to state prosecutors. In March 2011, the prosecution
sent summonses to most of the suspects to pre-indictment hearings, most of which
were concluded by August 2011.
Meanwhile, later on Thursday, the former
prime minister’s media adviser Amir Dan slammed the state prosecutor for filing
the indictment without granting Olmert a hearing, and during his trial in the
Jerusalem District Court for several other corruption charges.
the indictment at this time, while Olmert is already standing trial, runs
contrary to the ethics of basic decency and is a scandal in itself,” Dan said.
“In our view, this is an improper attempt to influence the court at a time when
it it faced with making decisions about Olmert’s case.”
The former prime
minister had “stated clearly that he never took bribes, either directly or
indirectly, and this indictment does not alter that fact,” Dan said.
also denounced the prosecution for refusing to reveal the terms of the agreement
signed with the main prosecution witness, which he said was done “in a dark
corner, hidden from public view.”
“The indictment is based on ‘Arabian
Nights’ fairy tales dreamed up by the state witness, who in the past has been
criticized in the courts, including for his tendency to tell lies,” Dan said.
“That man did not hesitate to conceal from the police and from the prosecution
the fact that he tried to blackmail various people, whom he later denounced as
Dan added that Olmert, during his tenure as mayor of Jerusalem
(1993-2003), had supported the original Holyland project “in the belief that, at
a time when many people were abandoning the capital, it would help the secular
population remain in the city by catering to their needs.”
according to his lawyer Navot Tel-Tzur, “strongly rejects the allegations
against him in the indictment. Dankner has never bribed anyone, and the claims
that he has are untenable, and have absolutely no evidential basis.
regret that charges have been brought that trample the dignity of a person,
without a shred of evidence, and based on the questionable testimony of a state
witness who has been revealed to be a blackmailer,” Tel-Tzur said. “Dankner
acted in good faith, with transparency and in accordance with the law. We take
with great seriousness the fact that the indictment was served without...
examining all the substantive arguments raised at [Dankner’s pre-indictment]
Assailing the hearing as a “set-up,” Tel-Tzur added that it
“harmed public trust in the concept of a hearing, and in the discretion of the
prosecutor, who ‘made sure’ to inform Dankner about its decision in this matter,
as in other matters, via the media.”