Witness: Paid NIS 80k for Torah ark for Lupolianski

On fourth day of Holyland trial, state witness elaborates further on bribes to former Jerusalem mayor.

HOLYLAND 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state’s witness in the Holyland trial testified that he paid bribes, including buying an NIS 80,000 18thcentury Torah ark that former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski requested, in exchange for help overcoming legal and zoning obstacles in the real estate project.
In the fourth day of his testimony on Thursday, the witness said he paid NIS 120,000 to Lupolianski’s election campaign and financed NIS 1.2 million toward a synagogue for the Yad Sarah organization, which Lupolianski founded, at the former mayor’s behest.
He also recalled that in May 2000, Lupolianski gave him a personal tour of a Yad Sarah institution where Lupolianski wanted the shul built.
The Holyland trial, which deals with the large Jerusalem construction project of the same name, is a massive corruption case involving allegations against former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Lupolianski, former Bank Hapoalim CEO Dan Dankner and 13 other defendants.
The state’s witness, known officially only as “S.D.” due to a court gag order, said he initially thought that financing the synagogue for Lupolianski’s pet organization would be enough to obtain his cooperation.
However, S.D. testified that Lupolianski later returned and asked that S.D. also buy an ark to hold the shul’s Torah in exchange for his continued cooperation.
Lupolianski did not receive just any ark, but rather one of the finest extant arks from the 18th century, which S.D. found in a catalogue of antique specialty items for sale.
S.D. said that the funds for the shul were paid by check, in small increments ensuring reciprocity with increasing progress of the Holyland project.
The assistance with Lupolianski’s election campaign was a combination of cash and checks, according to the state’s witness.
In another instance, S.D. gave Lupolianski’s son NIS 40,000 in funding for the son’s yeshiva. Lupolianski usually personally thanked S.D. for his “donations” within a few days of receiving them.
According to S.D., all bribes, direct and indirect, to Lupolianski were approved by businessman and Holyland corporation owner Hillel Cherny, who S.D. has consistently identified as the mastermind behind the Holyland project.
Although the state’s witness generally assumed that all of Cherny’s bribes were being negotiated with Lupolianski through S.D., in one instance he later learned that Cherny had negotiated a bribe with Lupolianski independently.
S.D. received an angry call from Lupolianski complaining that Cherny had promised him $1m. for a new electronic system, but had not followed through with the bribe. The state’s witness said he was shocked to learn about the situation and had no details since Cherny had negotiated this particular deal without him.
In previous testimony, S.D. had said Lupolianski had accepted between NIS 2m. and NIS 2.5m. in bribes from him, directly and indirectly.
Lupolianski was the head of the municipal authority that could approve, hasten or halt the Holyland project, S.D. noted.
Lupolianski’s support was even more important, said S.D., since he controlled the haredi members of the Jerusalem City Council and the haredi vote in general – which had put Olmert in power as mayor. As far as S.D. was concerned, Lupolianski was as crucial as Olmert for ensuring the Holyland project could move forward.
S.D. added that he attended the weddings of all of Lupolianski’s children, giving each of them an NIS 5,000 present.