‘S.D.’ was investor Shmuel Duchner

Court announces name of main state witness in the Holyland trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

By
March 6, 2013 00:59
2 minute read.

The court spokesman announced on Tuesday that the name of “S.D.” – as the state’s main witness in the Holyland trial was known under a gag order – was Shmuel Duchner.

Duchner, who died on Friday, was the main witness in the trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and 15 other defendants. The real estate investor, who was hospitalized multiple times throughout the trial and had a history of chronic health problems, was born in Romania in 1937 and was a Holocaust survivor.

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He was well-known in parts of the business world as a successful real estate investor who also knew all the ins and outs of government planning, tax issues and how to persuade people to assist him and do business with him.

Duchner also had significant ups and downs, including times in his life that he was exceedingly wealthy and times when he was practically penniless and in heavy debt.

Yet, because of his talents and his connections to a number of public officials, Hillel Cherny, the main investor in the Holyland project and one of the main defendants in the trial, chose Duchner to be his primary representative promoting the Holyland project.

From there the narratives of the prosecution and the defendants in the case depart.

The defendants claim that everything regarding the Holyland project was carried out legally – or, that if Duchner did anything illegally, it was all by his initiative or in his mind.

The prosecution, based mostly on Duchner’s story, alleged that Duchner was Cherny’s frontman for bribing a plethora of public officials from Olmert to former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski down to Jerusalem’s chief architect and anyone else needed to smooth over legal and zoning violations regarding the Holyland project.

The decision to remove the gag order was a hard-fought battle after numerous failed attempts to do so in the past by the media and the defense attorneys.

The state requested that the court keep the gag order in place at least until the end of the shiva mourning period. It argued that waiting a few more days to respect his family and discuss the ramifications of the removal of the gag order would not harm anyone.

Lawyers for the media argued that the sole purpose of the gag order had been to facilitate Duchner’s testimony. They said the state had expressed concern that Duchner would have difficulty testifying, especially because of his health problems, if he was openly savaged by the media.

But following Duchner’s death, they said, there was no longer anything to protect and that protecting the witness’s family had never been the basis for the gag order. The court accepted that argument and ordered it removed immediately.


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