Police recommend indicting Olmert

Former PM suspected of taking millions in bribes on Holyland project.

By
August 23, 2010 17:45
Ehud Olmert.

Olmert 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Israel Police is recommending that Tel Aviv state prosecutors indict former prime minister Ehud Olmert for receiving bribes to promote the Holyland real estate complex in Jerusalem, as it announced the conclusion of its bribery investigation Monday.

Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said the completion of the investigation marked “a milestone in the fight against public corruption.”

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He praised the National Fraud Unit which, he said, was stretched to the limit while handling “this complex and wide-ranging investigation.”

Police suspect that Olmert, during his term as Jerusalem mayor between 1993 and 2003, and later as industry, trade and labor minister between 2003 and 2006, received over a million shekels in bribes from businessmen with an interest in the Holyland project. Police suspect, that in exchange, Olmert worked to ensure that the building rights on the site were increased, leading to higher profits for the developers.

Olmert’s spokesman, Amir Dan, said, “Instead of making baseless recommendations, it would be appropriate for police to stop hiding information from the public.”

Dan contended that details about the state’s witness who provided police with the initial information on the affair were being concealed.



“It’s important the public is informed of the very real and problematic details that relate to this figure [the state’s witness] on whom the police rely so much. Olmert has declared, in the clearest manner, that he never accepted bribes, directly or indirectly,” said Dan.

“The police recommendations have no real significance, since the police have no responsibility in this matter other than the headlines they generates for themselves,” he added.

But police said the witness’s testimony was supported by plenty of independently obtained evidence, including corroborating documents from the time of the alleged affair.

Former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski is suspected of accepting more than NIS 3 million in bribes in exchange for ensuring that the Holyland plan was approved. He, too, should be indicted, police said on Monday.

Police added that they have evidence to suggest the following suspects allegedly paid bribes: • Businessman Hillel Charni, who owned the land on which the Holyland project was built, and the land on which the Tzuk Menara project, in the North, was constructed.

Police say evidence supports suspicions that Charni gave bribes to public officials, laundered funds, and falsely registered documents.

• Meir Rabin, who was the personal assistant of the state’s witness between 1997 mending that Tel Aviv state prosecutors indict former prime minister Ehud Olmert for receiving bribes to promote the Holyland real estate complex in Jerusalem, as it announced the conclusion of its bribery investigation Monday.

Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said the completion of the investigation marked “a milestone in the fight against public corruption.”

He praised the National Fraud Unit which, he said, was stretched to the limit while handling “this complex and wide-ranging investigation.”

Police suspect that Olmert, during his term as Jerusalem mayor between 1993 and 2003, and later as industry, trade and labor minister between 2003 and 2006, received over a million shekels in bribes from businessmen with an interest in the Holyland project. Police suspect, that in exchange, Olmert worked to ensure that the building rights on the site were increased, leading to higher profits for the developers.

Olmert’s spokesman, Amir Dan, said, “Instead of making baseless recommendations, it would be appropriate for police to stop hiding information from the public.”

Dan contended that details about the state’s witness who provided police with the initial information on the affair were being concealed.

“It’s important the public is informed of the very real and problematic details that relate to this figure [the state’s witness] on whom the police rely so much. Olmert has declared, in the clearest manner, that he never accepted bribes, directly or indirectly,” said Dan.

“The police recommendations have no real significance, since the police have no responsibility in this matter other than the headlines they generates for themselves,” he added.

But police said the witness’s testimony was supported by plenty of independently obtained evidence, including corroborating documents from the time of the alleged affair.

Former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski is suspected of accepting more than NIS 3 million in bribes in exchange for ensuring that the Holyland plan was approved. He, too, should be indicted, police said on Monday.

Police added that they have evidence to suggest the following suspects allegedly paid bribes: • Businessman Hillel Charni, who owned the land on which the Holyland project was built, and the land on which the Tzuk Menara project, in the North, was constructed.

Police say evidence supports suspicions that Charni gave bribes to public officials, laundered funds, and falsely registered documents.

• Meir Rabin, who was the personal assistant of the state’s witness between 1997 and 2007, is suspected of transferring tens of millions of shekels in bribes to decision- makers in the Jerusalem Municipality on behalf of property developers.

• Businessman Avigdor Kelner, who had majority stock ownership in the the Holyland Park and Zera real estate development companies, is suspected of paying hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes to public officials in order to promote the developments.

Police say evidence shows he gave bribes, committed fraud, and carried out corporate criminal offenses. He is also suspected of attempting to disrupt the police investigation.

• Former Bank Hapoalim chairman and ex-Israel Salt Industries head Dan Dankner is suspected of giving bribes to facilitate the rezoning of industrial land in Atlit to residential land. Police say evidence gathered against Dankner is sufficient for an indictment.

Others implicated by police include: • Former Israel Lands Administration head Ya’acov Efrati, who is suspected of receiving Dankner’s bribes and promoting Dankner’s interests because of them. Efrati should also face indictment, police said.

• Shula Zaken is suspected by police of acting as a “main pipeline” for bribe money destined for Olmert when the latter was both mayor and minister. Zaken is also suspected of taking bribes for herself.

• Uri Sheetrit, former chief Jerusalem Municipality engineer, is suspected of dropping his initial opposition to the Holyland project in Jerusalem and becoming a supporter of the plan after receiving very large bribes. Police say evidence supports the suspicions against Sheetrit.

• Eli Hasson, a former Holyland Company accountant, should also be indicted, police said. Investigators say evidence has been gathered to show that he falsely registered corporate documents and assisted in distributing bribes.

• Eli Simhayof, deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 2003 to 2008, is suspected of “taking the initiative, and demanding” hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribe money for himself from property developers.

After allegedly receiving the cash, he “divided it between himself and others in the municipality,” police said. Simhayof should face an indictment, according to police.

• Yehoshua Pollack, formerly deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who headed the powerful local planning and building committee from 2003 to 2008, should be indicted for accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes and acting as an intermediary for bribery in the Holyland affair, police said. Pollak is today treasurer of the Beitar Illit Municipality.

Olmert’s former associate, Uri Messer, also arrested earlier this year on suspicion of involvement in the affair, emerged in the clear on Monday, as police said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with anything.

Messer expressed relief on Monday, noting that he had maintained his innocence all along.

“Like I have been saying the entire time – I have not, nor have I ever had, connection to the Holyland scandal as the police have stated today,” he said.

The entire National Fraud Unit, which has around 200 investigators, took part in the investigation, under the command of former National Fraud Unit head Lt.- Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon and current head Lt.-Cmdr. Ziva Agami-Cohen. The investigation was overseen by the head of Police Investigations and Intelligence Branch Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, and head of the Lahav 433 Unit, Cmdr. Dudu Mantzur.

Nearly 600 statements were taken from 250 people during the course of the investigation.

Some 50 people were questioned under caution.

Detectives from the National Fraud Unit also flew to the US to question Olmert’s brother, Yosi, to look into suspicions that Olmert transferred alleged bribe money to him.


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