Bribery case ‘penetrated authorities’

Custody of 5 suspects in Holyland corruption affair extended.

HOLYLAND 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended the custody of fivesuspects, including the former head engineer of the JerusalemMunicipality and a land developer, who were arrested earlier this monthby police investigating the Holyland real estate bribery investigation.
Duringthe remand hearing on Tuesday evening, Judge Avraham Haiman, deputypresident of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, said the policeinvestigation had uncovered “the most severe episode of corruption wehave seen, which penetrated the authorities.” He added, “the severityis increased due to the involvement of senior figures, and I will notsay more than that.”
According to police suspicions, between1999 and 2008 the Holyland development company and associated landdevelopment projects, then owned by businessman Hillel Charni, paidtens of millions of shekels in bribes to senior public decision makersin the Jerusalem Municipality, members of its planning and constructioncommittee, the Israel Lands Administration, and others, in exchange fortheir approval for the Holyland housing project in the capital andadditional developments in the North.
Real estate developer Meir Rabin is suspected of acting as an intermediary in the alleged bribery ring.
Policesay he promoted Holyland projects and passed on tens of millions inbribery money to decision makers in the Jerusalem Municipality.
On Tuesday, Haiman extended Rabin’s custody by ten days.
Thepolice representative to court said Rabin’s involvement in the allegedoffenses was “monstrous,” adding that he refused to cooperate withdetectives during questioning. “As the fog lifts, things are becomingclearer,” the representative said.
Rabin’s attorney, EstherToledan, argued that police were seeking to keep her client in custodybecause law enforcement officials were waiting to question former primeminister Ehud Olmert, who was mayor of Jerusalem during the time of thealleged offenses, and who is scheduled to return from abroad thisweekend.
Toledan’s claims were rejected by Haiman, who ruledthat releasing Rabin would undoubtedly lead to a disruption of theinvestigation.
Haiman extended Charni’s custody by 10 more dayson Tuesday, ruling that a “most solid basis of evidence exists to tiethe suspect” to the alleged offenses. Haiman described Charni as the“suspect with the largest interest in the corruption affair.”
Thepolice representative to court said “new evidence” had come to light inrecent days pertaining to Charni’s role as alleged bribe-giver to“elements” in the Jerusalem Municipality, and alleged attempts byCharni to disrupt the course of the investigation.
EliyahuHasson, an accountant for Holyland who worked under Charni, issuspected of transferring bribery funds to officials and forgingdocuments while attempting to hide evidence of his alleged involvement.Haiman said the evidence he studied in the form of a secret policedossier showed that Hasson “carried out all of his employer’sinstructions which were criminal offenses,” and extended Hasson’scustody by nine days.
Uri Sheetrit, former chief JerusalemMunicipality engineer, is suspected of dropping his initial oppositionto the Holyland project in Jerusalem and becoming a supporter of theplan after receiving very large bribes.
Haiman extendedSheetrit’s custody by nine days, ruling that his release would disruptthe investigation, and noting a “development” in the investigation intoSheetrit’s alleged role. Sheetrit was “entrusted to safeguard thepublic interest and scenery of the capital,” Haiman said, adding that“the severity of his offenses were great.”
Police said Sheetrit had “many opportunities” to turn down bribes, but chose to receive them at every available opportunity.
BusinessmanAvigdor Kelner, who managed the Polar Investments company between 1996and 2007 and had majority stock ownership in the the Holyland Park andZera companies, is suspected of paying hundreds of thousands of shekelsin bribes via companies he owned to public officials in the JerusalemMunicipality to promote the Holyland residential development.
Citing “new developments” in the investigation into Kelner, Haiman extended his custody by nine days.
Meanwhile,new details have surfaced about a man who served as a business adviserto Charni and helped manage the Holyland development for several years.
Theman, named as real estate developer Shmuel Dachner, fell out withCharni over a dispute about how much he should have been paid for hisservices.
According to a civil lawsuit filed by Dachner at the Tel AvivMagistrate’s Court last month against a company described as a loanshark, Dachner accumulated heavy debts on the gray market aftermanaging the Holyland project.
According to the lawsuit, Charni began paying off Dachner’s gray marketdebtors, though in some cases the funds paid by Charni were less thanthe total debt, sparking the business dispute between the two men.
Dachner had threatened to sue Charni, though the latter reportedly viewed the threat as an attempt to extort him.