Olmert among officials to be indicted in Holyland affair

Ex-Jerusalem mayor Lupolianski, Shula Zaken, former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner to face trial.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert 311 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will face trial on charges of allegedly receiving bribes as Jerusalem mayor and as a government minister in exchange for promoting Jerusalem’s massive Holyland real estate development, state prosecutors announced on Monday.
In August 2010, police completed the Holyland bribery investigation, describing it as the largest alleged bribery scandal ever exposed in Israeli law enforcement history, and a milestone in the war against corruption.
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Tel Aviv state prosecutors said Monday that Olmert, together with 17 other suspects, would be tried following a hearing.
Olmert’s spokesman, Amir Dan, slammed the prosecutors’ announcement, telling Channel 10 on Monday evening that the state prosecution was a body “with enormous power that it is using improperly.” He charged that the announcement on plans to try the former prime minister had reached the media before it reached Olmert’s defense attorneys.
Olmert denies having taken bribes at any stage, and accused the prosecution’s state witness, whom he described as an untrustworthy individual, of inventing the plot, Dan said. The state witness cannot be named.
Earlier on Monday, state prosecutors said in a statement that “according to evidence acquired, a long line of public officials and elected officials at the Jerusalem Municipality allegedly accepted bribes in order to promote the Holyland project and the economic interests of its backers. They include former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and former head of Olmert’s bureau Shula Zaken.”
Other suspects included former Jerusalem deputy mayors Eliezer Simhayof, Yehoshua Pollack and Haim Miller, as well as municipal engineer Uri Sheetrit. They have all denied the allegations against them.
Prosecutors believe evidence also exists to try businessman Hillel Charni, the main landowner in the Holyland development, for allegedly giving millions in bribes to gain approval for very the large construction permits.
Bribes were given between 1994 and 2007 in unprecedented quantities, totaling several million shekels, prosecutors charged.
Later, businessman Avigdor Kelner and additional suspects purchased parts of the real estate, and allegedly gave millions in bribes to promote construction too, prosecutors added. Kelner, too, maintains his innocence.
Meir Rabin is suspected of acting as the main intermediary, allegedly passing along bribes from businessmen to officials, prosecutors said. Rabin has denied the suspicions against him as well.
In a separate but related investigation, prosecutors said former Bank Hapoalim and Israel Salt Industries head Dan Dankner paid NIS 1.5 million in bribes to the former head of the Israel Lands Authority, Ya’acov Efrati, and Olmert when the latter served as industry, trade and labor minister, in order to promote the interests of the Zera land development company and gain construction permits on land intended for agriculture.
In a third investigation, prosecutors said, Dankner will be indicted for allegedly paying NIS 1.3m. in bribes to Efrati (through Rabin) in exchange for gaining permission to convert Israel Salt Industries land into residential real estate development zones.
Dankner has denied all of the allegations against him.