A wayward brother who can bring down a PM

The impact of Yossi Olmert’s testimony on Holyland trial.

Yossi Olmert 370 (photo credit: Morningside College)
Yossi Olmert 370
(photo credit: Morningside College)
The tide has turned once more.
Days after the dramatic testimony of wayward brother Yossi Olmert in the Holyland trial, the momentum has shifted back toward the prosecution, and against Ehud Olmert.
How did this happen? The state was reeling.
In a shocking twist of fate worthy of a movie, its main witness, Shmuel Duchner, died mid-trial before he could finish testifying.
Right before he died, the former prime minister’s lawyer were tearing Duchner apart, revealing inconsistencies with his story day after day, including the likely forging of documents.
News reports were rampant with predictions that the state was on the verge of closing the case against Ehud, despite not having finished presenting its case, but that they would just wait until after Yossi’s testimony to cover their bases.
But Ehud has the misfortune of a wayward brother who either could not read his Cliff Notes correctly or whose true account could impale Ehud’s defense.
Apparently, Yossi’s problems are not only with money, of which he owes around NIS 3 million, including to black market figures, which led him to flee to the US in 2004.
The key point around Yossi’s testimony was whether in 2002-2003 Duchner had given him NIS 500,000 and whether Duchner had given this to him on request from Ehud as a bribe for helping move the Holyland real estate project forward despite legal and zoning obstacles.
Yossi had previously told police that he had met with Duchner and been given NIS 500,000, but that Ehud knew nothing about it.
This was Ehud’s simple if not entirely impermeable defense as well – Duchner was running around trying to bribe or find favor with people, but Ehud never requested or knew about it. So it’s not his problem and he’s not guilty.
Whether truthfully or because he can’t read a script, Yossi got excited and told the court that he had never met Duchner or gotten money from him.
Except he later admitted that he had, in fact, met him and received a smaller amount of money in 1996. Strike one.
Why did Yossi tell something untrue to police that would hurt Ehud more? He gave several different answers, but in one of them he likely subconsciously slipped and mentioned that Ehud was currently in the room with him (now that he was denying ever meeting Ducher), whereas Ehud was not present when police questioned him (when he admitted getting money from Duchner). The prosecution pounced and accused him of blatantly changing his story out of fear of Ehud being in the room.
Strike two.
Ehud’s lawyers went berserk, accusing Yossi of lying and trying to "sweeten” the story more than necessary, implying they also thought he was lying and that the court should ignore his story in favor of Ehud’s.
Strike three.
The court, in an unprecedented open show of its view, tells Yossi that his story actually works better with Duchner’s story that he gave Yossi money as bribes for Ehud, than it does with Ehud’s story.
How? The court says that Yossi’s later story of Ehud being angry with Yossi and only giving him NIS 10,000 to help him in 2004 when Yossi was out millions, makes more sense if Ehud had brokered NIS 500,000 for him from Duchner in 2002-2003. This was especially true since Yossi protested repeatedly about how close the brothers were (which Ehud’s lawyers bristled at and denied). Oops, no more strikes, Yossi was already out.
So post-Yossi’s testimony, the court has said it may link together Duchner and Yossi’s testimony to nail Ehud.
Yossi may or may not have been trying to help Ehud, but he certainly did him no favors, and the Holyland case, while still hotly disputed, is once again very much alive.