J'lem deputy mayor suspended over Holyland indictments

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January 23, 2012 18:20
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Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat announced on Sunday his decision to suspend deputy mayor Eli Simchayoff, following the indictment filed against him over the Holyland real estate corruption scandal.

Simchayoff was one of 13 people, among them former prime minister Ehud Olmert, indicted earlier this month on allegations of giving and receiving bribes in one of the largest corruption scandals in the country's history.

The indictment charges that Holyland real estate developers paid tens of millions of shekels to public employees and elected officials to advance the projects, including by substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over planning objections, rezoning land, giving tax breaks and increasing the permitted amount of construction.

The Jerusalem mayor's decision came after Simchayoff refused to suspend himself pending a trial verdict, in accordance with an opinion presented by the municipality's legal adviser. Barkat referred to the municipal legal adviser's opinion, which said that while Simchayoff is presumed innocent, in the light of his indictment for offenses related to his municipal duties, and of the gravity of those offenses, he must be suspended from his executive position in order to avoid damaging public trust in the Jerusalem municipality.

"The Holyland affair is a watershed in the struggle against corruption, and damage to integrity," Barkat said. "As mayor, it is my duty to lead the city of Jerusalem while setting norms and rules of conduct and personal and professional integrity, in order to strengthen public confidence in the Jerusalem municipality and its employees."

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