The state’s main witness in the Holyland trial on Tuesday unloaded new
revelations of fraud and bribery, focusing mostly on bribes given at the behest
of former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski of between NIS 2 million and NIS 2.5m.
and on former Jerusalem chief engineer Uri Sheetrit for receiving over NIS 1m.
in bribes directly and indirectly.
The Holyland trial, which deals with
the large Jerusalem construction project of the same name, is a massive
corruption case involving allegations against former prime minister Ehud Olmert,
Lupolianski, Sheetrit, former Bank Hapoalim CEO Dan Dankner and 12 other
The witness, known officially only as “S.D.” due to a gag
order, testified that Shula Zaken, Olmert’s former bureau chief, had initially
introduced him to Lupolianski in 1994.
S.D. noted that Lupolianski was
the head of the municipal authority that could approve, hasten or halt the
Lupolianski’s support was even more important, said
S.D., since he controlled the haredi members of the Jerusalem City Council and
the haredi vote in general – which had put Olmert in power as mayor. As far as
S.D. was concerned, Lupolianski was as crucial as Olmert for ensuring the
Holyland project could move forward.
Meeting with Lupolianski, S.D. said
he represented businessman and Holyland Corporation owner Hillel Cherny, and
eventually arrived at an understanding by which S.D. would make donations
to Yad Sarah, a charitable medical organization that the former mayor had
In exchange, Lupolianski would make sure the Holyland project
would move forward and even be sped up, regardless of any legal obstacles, S.D.
Lupolianski also told S.D. that Yad Sarah was the “most
valuable thing to him.” Once they agreed on a sum that S.D.
“donate” to Yad Sarah, generally on behalf of Cherny, Lupolianski would have an
associate, Shoshana Sharabi, contact S.D. to arrange the specific transfer
details, said S.D.
The witness estimated that between NIS 2m. and NIS
2.5m. in total was transferred to Yad Sarah to obtain Lupolianski’s cooperation.
S.D. said he was not familiar with any project of similar size that moved
forward as fast as this one, once the bribes were being paid. S.D. added that he
attended the weddings of all of Lupolianski’s children, giving each of them an
NIS 5,000 present.
Moving on to the post-1999 period of promoting the
project, S.D. delved into his relations with Sheetrit, who was appointed by
Olmert while Olmert was still mayor of Jerusalem – and according to S.D., when
Olmert was still himself accepting bribes to advance the Holyland
S.D. said Sheetrit initially told him he might not have approved
earlier stages of the project had he been chief engineer then, due to violations
of city rules and standards. S.D.
said he turned to Jerusalem
entrepreneur Meir Rabin, who had close connections with Sheetrit, to help
convince Sheetrit to take a more positive view of the project.
2003, Sheetrit received direct bribes in the amount of NIS 130,000, and a
company of his received an additional NIS 883,500, said S.D., for agreeing to
promote the project among the relevant Jerusalem authorities.
Sheetrit was assisted by S.D., according to his testimony, in reducing a Bank
Hapoalim debt of approximately NIS 3m. to about NIS 1.1m. In order to do so,
S.D. said he sent Rabin to speak with Dankner.
Asked by the court “with
all due respect to Meir Rabin, why would Dankner do what Rabin wanted” and
reduce Sheetrit’s debt, S.D. responded that Dankner wanted to stay in good stead
with Rabin because he needed his assistance on business issues with the Israel
The judge asked S.D. why they didn’t simply try to
persuade Lupolianski to fire Sheetrit and replace him with a more pliable chief
The witness answered they did not know who his replacement
would be and they already believed, correctly, that Sheetrit could be bought
S.D. said Cherny, Polar Investments CEO Avigdor Kellner, Polar
Investments manager Amnon Safran and Kardan Real Estate CEO Shimon Galon all
knew and approved of the bribes being given to Sheetrit.
He added that
both Sheetrit and Cherny were careful to instruct him that the bribes be spread
out in a number of checks in small sums to better avoid detection.
this point the judge interjected, “All of them knew [about the bribes]?”
affirmed they did and said if they had not, “they would not be
sitting here now along with me.”
The third day of testimony also more
deeply explored what went wrong in S.D.’s relationship with the other
defendants, which led him to turn to the authorities and eventually blow open
the entire Holyland scandal.
In 2008, when S.D. was sick and had
financial problems, he said he asked Sheetrit for help paying an NIS 50,000
debt. To his dismay, Sheetrit at first acted unsure and eventually said he could
only give him NIS 35,000, said S.D.
This left S.D. feeling
He said he had given Sheetrit and other officials much larger
funds to help them in their time of need, and they later would not assist him
properly with a much smaller debt. S.D.
became animated on the stand and
said he could withstand many things, but would not be treated “like an idiot”
when he knew that they could assist him if they chose.
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders