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.

olmert with lopolianski 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
olmert with lopolianski 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
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 andassociated land development projects, then owned by businessmanHillel Charni, paid tens of millions of shekels in bribes to senior public decision makers in the JerusalemMunicipality, members of its planning and construction committee, theIsrael Lands Administration and others.
In exchange, the officials allegedly granted approval for the Holyland housing project in the Malha neighborhoodand 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 onThursday afternoon. Messer is suspected as acting as an intermediarybetween bribe givers and takers and transferring hundreds of thousandsof shekels in bribes.
Police also said Thursday that they hadmanaged to secure a state witness in the affair, and announced thearrest of another elected official,who still serves in the capital's municipality. 
Theofficial also serves as the director of a major construction firmthat was allegedly involved in the Holyland project.
He waswas questioned on Wednesday night and was due to be brought for aremand extension hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court onThursday afternoon.
It comes a day after the detention of formerJerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski in the case.
On Thursday morning, a seniorJerusalem councilman said he suspected the Holyland real estateaffair was “just the start” and called on authorities toinvestigate a number of other massive building projects he believesmay be tainted with corruption.
Councilman Meir Turgeman, thehead of the opposition faction in the Jerusalem municipal council,told Israel Radio he fears plans to build at the YMCA compound, theGilo Uptown project and Mamilla neighborhood might have been approvedin return for kickbacks.
On Wednesday, the policeinvestigation into suspected massive bribery in the Holyland realestate affair took a dramatic turn when detectives from the NationalFraud Unit arrested Lupolianski on suspicion of accepting more thanNIS 3 million in bribes to ensure that the housing plan was approved,and of money laundering.