The state’s witness in the Holyland trial testified that he paid bribes,
including buying an NIS 80,000 18thcentury Torah ark that former Jerusalem mayor
Uri Lupolianski requested, in exchange for help overcoming legal and zoning
obstacles in the real estate project.
In the fourth day of his testimony
on Thursday, the witness said he paid NIS 120,000 to Lupolianski’s election
campaign and financed NIS 1.2 million toward a synagogue for the Yad Sarah
organization, which Lupolianski founded, at the former mayor’s behest.
also recalled that in May 2000, Lupolianski gave him a personal tour of a Yad
Sarah institution where Lupolianski wanted the shul built.
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, former Bank Hapoalim CEO Dan Dankner and 13
The state’s witness, known officially only as “S.D.”
due to a court gag order, said he initially thought that financing the synagogue
for Lupolianski’s pet organization would be enough to obtain his
However, S.D. testified that Lupolianski later returned and
asked that S.D. also buy an ark to hold the shul’s Torah in exchange for his
Lupolianski did not receive just any ark, but
rather one of the finest extant arks from the 18th century, which
S.D. found in a catalogue of antique specialty items for
S.D. said that the funds for the shul were paid by check, in small
increments ensuring reciprocity with increasing progress of the Holyland
The assistance with Lupolianski’s election campaign was a
combination of cash and checks, according to the state’s witness.
another instance, S.D. gave Lupolianski’s son NIS 40,000 in funding for
the son’s yeshiva. Lupolianski usually personally thanked S.D. for his
“donations” within a few days of receiving them.
According to S.D., all
bribes, direct and indirect, to Lupolianski were approved by businessman and
Holyland corporation owner Hillel Cherny, who S.D. has consistently identified
as the mastermind behind the Holyland project.
Although the state’s
witness generally assumed that all of Cherny’s bribes were being negotiated with
Lupolianski through S.D., in one instance he later learned that Cherny had
negotiated a bribe with Lupolianski independently.
S.D. received an angry
call from Lupolianski complaining that Cherny had promised him $1m. for a new
electronic system, but had not followed through with the bribe. The state’s
witness said he was shocked to learn about the situation and had no details
since Cherny had negotiated this particular deal without him.
testimony, S.D. had said Lupolianski had accepted between NIS
2m. and NIS 2.5m. in bribes from him, directly and
Lupolianski was the head of the municipal authority that
could approve, hasten or halt the Holyland project, S.D.
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.
S.D. added that he attended the weddings of
all of Lupolianski’s children, giving each of them an NIS 5,000 present.
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