State reveals details of deal with Holyland witness

Media, ex-PM’s lawyers ask court to revoke gag order on full name of ‘S.D.’

Holyland still on hold 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Holyland still on hold 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The State Attorney’s Office released details on Wednesday of its agreement with the main state witness in the Holyland corruption scandal.
The witness, known only as S.D., gave testimony that directly led to the Holyland investigation and to indictments lodged last Thursday against 13 individuals, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, in what is one of the largest corruption scandals in the country’s history.
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According to the indictment, the Holyland developers paid tens of millions of shekels to civil servants and elected officials to advance the project by substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over objections, rezoning land, giving tax breaks and increasing the permitted extent of construction.
Some of the charges also relate to alleged bribery regarding the rezoning of salt flats in Eilat and Atlit, and the promotion of real estate interests on farms north of Kiryat Gat.
According to a statement released by the State Attorney’s Office, S.D. – who has been afforded complete immunity – turned to police through his lawyers in the second half of 2009 and offered to reveal everything he knew about the Holyland project and matters regarding the farms. He did so in order to commence civil lawsuits against others involved in the affairs.
Following the offer, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, together with the head of the police’s Investigations and Intelligence Division, the deputy attorney- general and senior Tax Authority officials, conducted negotiations with S.D.’s legal team.
Initially, S.D. signed an agreement with the state after it checked the allegations and found “various external verifications to support them,” the State Attorney’s Office said. Under the terms of the agreement, S.D.
pledged to tell authorities everything he knew, hand over all documents in his possession and cooperate fully with police investigators and state prosecutors.
During the investigation, S.D. made more than 70 statements to the police and handed over a large quantity of documents. According to the State Attorney’s Office, he also provided details on the salt flats. The indictment charges Dan Dankner, former chairman of Bank Hapoalim and Israel Salt Industries, and former Israel Lands Authority head Ya’acov Efrati with giving and receiving bribes relating to the rezoning of the flats.
“S.D.’s agreement with the state and the subsequent investigation revealed scandals that were unprecedented in their prima facie nature, and which have broad and serious public implications,” the State Attorney’s Office said.
Under its agreement with S.D., the state agreed to waive the fees for a civil suit he has already filed regarding the Holyland affair. It also agreed to cover NIS 8,000 of his monthly legal expenses, from August 2010 through June 2011, incurred from civil proceedings filed against him by other Holyland suspects and their associates.
That decision was taken, the State Attorney’s Office said, because the lawsuits were intended to “damage [S.D.] and his ability to fulfill his commitment as a state witness.”The agreement does not cover S.D.’s legal expenses for suits he himself initiated, the State Attorney’s Office emphasized. He has agreed to return the funds at a later date.
In addition, the agreement includes S.D.’s inclusion in the Witness Protection Program, which grants state witnesses economic assistance to ensure a reasonable standard of living. He will not be targeted by the Tax Authority, the State Attorney’s Office noted, because he has no property or financial resources.
Also on Wednesday, the Tel Aviv District Court heard a petition by Yediot Aharonot asking that the courtimposed gag order on S.D.’s name and personal information be revoked. Judge Oded Mudrik said he would make a decision on the matter within the next few days.
During the hearing, the paper’s lawyers argued that the gag order was “ridiculous” since information in the indictment made it easy for people to deduce S.D.’s real identity, and because these details were already in the public domain on websites like Wikipedia.
Attorney Eli Zohar, an attorney for Olmert, said the gag order should be lifted because there was no risk to S.D.’s life.
“Two weeks ago the state witness filed a civil suit against the defendants [in the Holyland Affair], and there he did not request a gag order,” Zohar said. “It is the state that sought a gag order after S.D. said he would not request one.”
Wednesday’s proceedings came a day after the court ruled that the Holyland case would be heard by a single judge, and not by a panel of three judges, as had been requested by the state.
The court is expected to announce the name of the judge who will hear the case within days.