Witness explains how he covered up Holyland bribes

S.D., Hillel Cherny allegedly recorded bribes as "loans" on ledger of side corporation to try to insulate Cherny from accusations.

Holyland 390 (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Holyland 390
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
The state’s witness in the Holyland trial on Sunday explained how he covered up the alleged bribes he purportedly paid to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and many of the other defendants in the case.
The Holyland trial, which deals with the large Jerusalem construction project of the same name, is a massive corruption case involving allegations against Olmert, Lupolianski, former Bank Hapoalim CEO Dan Dankner and 13 other defendants.
According to the state’s witness, known only as “S.D.” due to a gag order, most of the funds from 1994 to 1999 – when he was paying a large volume of bribes – were transferred not from the main Holyland Corporation involved in the project, but from a side corporation called Holyland Tourism.
Besides insulating the main company from direct involvement in the bribery, S.D. recorded the bribes as personal loans that he was making to others, he said.
S.D. explained that despite marking them as loans, he was never paid back any of the money and never expected to receive any of them back, as they were bribes. Labeling them as loans was just part of the cover-up.
Besides his own testimony that none of these transactions were actually loans and that all of them were illegal bribes, the state’s witness noted suspicious circumstances surrounding the transactions.
Even though millions of shekels were being “loaned,” S.D. said that he never took any kind of security or mortgage, nor did he sign any kind of document to protect businessman and Holyland Corporation owner Hillel Cherny, who was funneling the bribery-designated funds to him.
The state’s witness said he was not familiar with anyone who lent that much money without signing legal documents, and usually also receiving various mortgages or securities in exchange.
At the same time, Cherny was giving S.D. approximately $50,000 a month to keep up with the alleged bribes, he said.
The trial, now in its second week – after the early days of revelations and flamboyant accusations against Olmert, Lupolianski and the other defendants – is at the stage where the prosecution is recording the details and method of the bribery and fraud allegedly committed by those behind the Holyland project and the public officials whom they purportedly paid off.