Olmert declared chief suspect in Holyland real estate case

Police say state witness secured in bribery affair; former prime minister's associate Messer released to 10-day house arrest; detention of elected J'lem Municipality official also announced.

April 15, 2010 13:54
2 minute read.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks with Jeru

olmert with lopolianski 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])


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Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect in the Holyland real estate scandal, police announced Thursday.

According to police suspicions, between 1999 and 2008, the Holyland development company and associated land development projects, then owned by businessman Hillel Charni, paid tens of millions of shekels in bribes to senior public decision makers in the Jerusalem Municipality, members of its planning and construction committee, the Israel Lands Administration and others.
In exchange, the officials allegedly granted approval for the Holyland housing project in the Malha neighborhood and additional developments in the North.

Police suspect that Olmert accepted bribes from businessmen and other interested parties.

There have been contradictory reports as to the amount in question, ranging from hundreds of thousands of shekels to millions.

According to media reports Olmert is the chief suspect in the scandal, and is expected to be questioned under warning in the next few days.

Meanwhile, another top suspect in the affair, former Olmert associate Uri Messer, was expected to be released to house arrest at a court hearing on Thursday afternoon. Messer is suspected as acting as an intermediary between bribe givers and takers and transferring hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes.

Police also said Thursday that they had managed to secure a state witness in the affair, and announced the arrest of another elected official, who still serves in the capital's municipality. 

The official also serves as the director of a major construction firm that was allegedly involved in the Holyland project.

He was was questioned on Wednesday night and was due to be brought for a remand extension hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Thursday afternoon.

It comes a day after the detention of former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski in the case.

On Thursday morning, a senior Jerusalem councilman said he suspected the Holyland real estate affair was “just the start” and called on authorities to investigate a number of other massive building projects he believes may be tainted with corruption.

Councilman Meir Turgeman, the head of the opposition faction in the Jerusalem municipal council, told Israel Radio he fears plans to build at the YMCA compound, the Gilo Uptown project and Mamilla neighborhood might have been approved in return for kickbacks.

On Wednesday, the police investigation into suspected massive bribery in the Holyland real estate affair took a dramatic turn when detectives from the National Fraud Unit arrested Lupolianski on suspicion of accepting more than NIS 3 million in bribes to ensure that the housing plan was approved, and of money laundering.

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