Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was questioned under caution on Tuesday morning regarding his alleged involvement in the Holyland bribery affair, police said.
Olmert is suspected of accepting bribes totaling over NIS 1 million from real estate developers to promote their interests in several projects, especially the Holyland apartment complex in Jerusalem. The bribes were allegedly given when Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem and then as minister of industry and trade. In the latter role, he oversaw the Israel Lands Administration.
Meanwhile, Haaretz has obtained a document sent by prosecutors to Olmert's attorney ahead of a hearing in a separate case that centers on political appointments. The document lists the planned charges against the former prime minister and names the Likud functionaries, activists and others he is suspected of having improperly appointed to influential positions. Olmert was a member of Likud at the time, though he later moved to Kadima.
Some weeks ago, the prosecution said it intends to indict Olmert in this case, pending a hearing with the state prosecutor, on charges of fraud, breach of trust and seeking to influence votes through promise of benefits.
The document, authored by head of the prosecution's economic department, Avia Alef, says that Olmert, whether personally or through his aides, would "collect requests for employment ... approach the relevant officials working under him in the ministries ... sometimes through pressure ... appoint close associates to key roles ... and initiate contact with Likud activists to inform them of employment opportunities in agencies under Olmert's authority."
The prosecution also intends to charge Olmert's senior aide at the time, former cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel.
Describing events at the telephone company Bezeq when Olmert was communications minister, Alef writes that "Olmert, personally or through aides, would contact Bezeq CEO Amnon Dick, or Dick's office manager, either orally or in writing, to discuss benefits and appointments in the company for Likud functionaries and activists. Olmert would stress that acceding to these requests was important to him."
"In that context," the document says, "Olmert, personally or through aides, worked to have Likud central committee member Haim Avitan appointed to a senior position in Bezeq ... to appoint Yosef Benano as deputy director of human resources at Bezeq Online, [and] to appoint Ilan Haddad, chairman of Likud's Ramat Hasharon chapter, as active chairman of the board of BezeqCall."
The document also discusses appointments in the Postal Authority in that period, saying that Olmert worked "to get Yossi Shelly, a former Likud central committee member, appointed as director general of the Postal Authority, and his associate Yaakov Edri appointed chairman of the authority council." Alef claims that Olmert then used Edri and Shelly to appoint two other Likud chapter chairmen, Avraham Avidan and Yitzhak Michaeli, to key positions in the postal service, and also helped six other Likud activists by either giving them appointments in the authority or preventing their dismissal.
Olmert also helped Likud central committee members employed in the ILA, Alef writes. As Haaretz reported earlier, Olmert worked to appoint Shuki Aner to the committee that compensates farmers, while Yitzhak Regev, chairman of the Likud's Haifa chapter, was appointed to a committee examining the impact of discounts on land allocations for housing in the north. Regev was also appointed, through Olmert's assistance, as director of the Caesarea-Edmond de Rothschild Foundation.
Olmert held various meetings with Likud central committee members and their cronies, innocuously listed in his schedule as "public hours." The meetings, to which ILA director Yaakov Efrati was also invited, were attended by Likud activist Reuven Gavrieli and his brother Haim, Ramo ben Shoshan, Mordechai Barzilai, Rami Tayeb and Yigal Amedi.
As industry, trade and labor minister, Olmert was also empowered to appoint public representatives to the labor courts, together with then-justice minister Tzipi Livni. "In the said period, Mr. Olmert would approach Likud central committee members and their associates through his aides and suggest that they apply for the posts," the document states.
In March 2004, an advisory committee met to recommend candidates for these positions. Olmert's office prepared a list of 15 Likud central committee members and their associates, including Shlomo Durani, Yaakov Nissim Stern, Roni Jarafi and Shimshon Madmoni. Olmert called some of the candidates to congratulate them on their appointments, which he announced only three months later, in June 2004.
In October 2004, Olmert worked to get another 12 Likud activists made public representatives on the labor courts. He signed these appointments in January 2005.
In April 2005, Olmert, via his aides, once again tried to appoint 28 Likud central committee members and activists to these courts. But this time, the document said, Livni refused to consent.
At the Government Employment Service, Olmert also "worked personally or through aides to appoint or promote Likud central committee members and their associates, by applying pressure and repeatedly approaching the employment service director, Ms. Esther Dominissini," Alef writes.
At times, Olmert worked via the industry ministry's director general, Raanan Dinur, due to the "extremely poor personal relations between Oved Yehezkel and Dominissini that resulted from Yehezkel's requests of Dominissini to appoint and promote Likud central committee members and their associates," the document adds.
Olmert denies all the charges.
Three weeks ago, when it still appeared that police lacked evidence against Olmert in the Holyland case, the prosecution announced that it would indict Olmert for his political appointments. Olmert's media advisor, Amir Dan, said at the time that the announcement's timing raised serious questions.
He also claimed the entire affair had been blown out of proportion. "There was nothing flawed in the process of appointing these officials ... and no inappropriate pressure was applied," Dan said.
Yehezkel's attorney, David Libai, said that as Olmert's aide, his client "took care of thousands of requests from ordinary citizens, a small minority of which were Likud central committee members. Yehezkel acted in accordance with the minister's instructions and directed all requests to the relevant officials ... He was not involved in any illegal activity and had no interest in appointing central committee members."
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