The Holyland residential project in Jerusalem.
The Holyland residential project in Jerusalem. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner this week denied the charges against him in the Holyland corruption case.

The indictment charges officials in several municipal and national agencies with taking bribes to advance construction projects, most notably the Holyland luxury apartment complex in Jerusalem. The highest-profile defendant in the case is former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was mayor of Jerusalem when the alleged crimes occurred.

During the relevant period, Dankner was co-chairman of the board of Salt Industries and deputy chairman of Bank Hapoalim. The indictment, which was filed in the Tel Aviv District Court earlier this year, states that beginning in the mid-1990s, Dankner sought to persuade the Israel Lands Administration to rezone land leased by Salt Industries in both Atlit, south of Haifa, and Eilat from "industrial" to "residential, tourist and commercial," and to grant the company building rights on the land after the zoning was changed.

The indictment alleges that between 2002 and 2004, Dankner and an associate, Meir Rabin, decided that Rabin would bribe Yaakov Efrati, then the head of the ILA, to persuade him to advance the rezoning plan. Dankner gave Rabin about NIS 1.1 million on behalf of Salt Industries to be passed on to Efrati, the indictment says, and Efrati accepted a sum of at least NIS 45,000, in full knowledge that it was being given to advance the rezoning plan for Salt Industries. Rabin also worked in other ways to get the rezoning plan carried out, it says.

In a brief filed by his lawyers Wednesday, Dankner flatly denied the charges. The brief called the accusations baseless and without foundation, saying they are not supported by any evidence. In fact, it said, the evidence collected by the police actually supports a finding of innocence on Dankner's part.

An agreement in principle on the rezoning plan was signed with the Israel Lands Administration in 1996, the brief said, before Efrati even became the head of the agency. Until 2003, it added, negotiations between Salt Industries and the ILA were conducted by professionals from both bodies, while the final deal was approved by a task force convened by then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

The brief also said that Rabin was hired by the company and paid a salary with the approval of the Salt Industries board.