Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s legal team on Thursday took a dramatic U-turn in the appeal of his Holyland bribery conviction, denying that his brother Yossi had ever received an NIS 500,000 bribe.
They had previously agreed during the trial that Yossi had received the funds – and only disputed whether Ehud knew about it.
The issue is crucial as one of the two main foundations of Olmert’s bribery conviction was that Shmuel Duchner, the middleman who paid off politicians to get them to move the Holyland real estate project forward, gave Yossi the NIS 500,000 at Ehud’s behest.
Until now the assumption had been that Ehud admitted Yossi received the funds, but was arguing that he should be found innocent, as Duchner deposited Yossi the funds without telling him.
Much of the case revolved around Yossi’s statements about whether Ehud knew or not, but the premise was always that all sides agreed that Yossi received the funds.
This post-sentencing U-turn at the appeal stage, took the expanded five-justice Supreme Court panel by surprise, with the justices expressing consternation that Olmert would make such a change in his narrative at this point.