3 Holyland suspects kept in custody

Ex-deputy mayor accused of taking bribes, serving as intermediary.

April 23, 2010 03:22
3 minute read.
Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Yehoshua Pollack.

yehoshua pollack 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Yehoshua Pollack was arrested on Thursday morning on suspicion of accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes and acting as an intermediary on behalf of bribe-givers in the Holyland affair.

Police suspect businessmen and land developers allegedly paid large bribes to public officials within the Jerusalem Municipality in exchange for approval for a large housing development in Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood, and have arrested several top officials in recent weeks.

Pollack, who also served as the head of the municipality’s Planning and Construction Wing, is suspected of promoting two Holyland plans and ensuring that they received official approval within planning committees, and cutting tens of millions of shekels in costs for developers. Pollack is currently treasurer for the Betar Illit Municipality.

During a remand hearing for Pollack at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, the police representative to court, Ch.-Supt. Meir Orenfeld, asked the court to extend Pollack’s remand by eight days, citing concerns that he would attempt to subvert the investigation if released. Pollack’s attorney, Yaron Sartel, presented printouts of news reports from earlier this month detailing the suspicions against Pollack, and argued that his client had had sufficient time to subvert the investigation but had chosen not to do so.

Judge Avraham Haiman rejected the claims, saying that the suspicions were well-founded in light of confidential police case material that had been presented to him. Haiman extended Pollack’s custody by eight days.

Also on Thursday, Haiman extended the remand of Meir Rabin, suspected of passing on tens of millions of shekels in bribes to decision-makers in the Jerusalem Municipality, by seven days. The police representative to court said Rabin “spread out tentacles like an octopus” in his efforts to bribe city officials and ensure benefits for Holyland’s backers.

The representative added that suspicions centering around Rabin were closely tied to Wednesday’s arrest of former Israel Lands Authority Yaakov Efrati and former Israel Salt Industries owner and former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner.

The state’s witness in the Holyland affair had implicated Rabin as a main intermediary who linked Dankner to Efrati.

Rabin’s attorney, Giora Zilberstein, attempted to undermine the credibility of the state’s witness in the investigation during the remand hearing. Zilberstein produced a letter allegedly written by Rabin to Hillel Charni, the businessman who owned the property on which the Holyland towers were constructed and who is also suspected of bribing senior public decision-makers in the municipality.

Zilberstein said the state’s witness had given the letter to police because it purportedly showed how Rabin had offered to pass on millions in bribes while taking NIS 250,000 for himself. However, the lawyer added that in reality, the letter was a forgery and that a handwriting analysis would easily prove that Rabin had not written the missive. He challenged police to locate the NIS 250,000 allegedly given to Rabin, adding that his client did not even have a bank account.

“This is a problematic state’s witness with a problematic account, and my client has shown that the documents he provided [to police] were forged,” Zilberstein said.

Haiman rejected the claims, saying that case material clearly showed that Rabin’s role in the bribery scam was central.

“I can say that the investigation has developed since it began and that police have succeeded in collecting much evidence,” Haiman said.

Releasing Rabin would undoubtedly disrupt the investigation, Haiman added.

A third senior Jerusalem Municipality councilman, Eli Simhayoff, arrested this month on suspicion of taking bribes, had his remand extended by four days, after which he will be released to house arrest, in line with an agreement reached between police and Simhayoff’s lawyers.

Simhayoff, who served as deputy mayor, is also director of the Danya Cebus construction company, a subsidiary of Africa Israel Investments.

Police said Simhayoff was suspected of “taking the initiative and demanding” hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribe money for himself, and after allegedly receiving the cash, he “divided it between himself and others in the municipality.”

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