Police: Olmert got more than NIS 1m to promote Holyland
The police alleged yesterday that former prime minister Ehud Olmert had received more than NIS 1 million to promote the Holyland construction project, one of a series of affairs in which he is under investigation.
Investigators from the National Fraud Squad revealed the amount of bribe money during the hearing on the police request that former Olmert bureau chief and confidante Shula Zaken be released to house arrest.
Zaken is suspected of taking bribes amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels from the owners of the land in Jerusalem on which the Holyland project was built, in addition to the more than NIS 1 million she is alleged to have funneled to Olmert.
The police also suspect that Zaken received a piece of jewelry worth NIS 10,000 and a picture worth NIS 5,000.
In exchange, Zaken and Olmert are believed to have made it possible to augment building rights on the property and increase the number of residential units authorized for construction.
Zaken is also suspected of obstructing justice in one of the cases against Olmert for the time when he was prime minister. Zaken allegedly approached Shmuel Dachner, a major figure in the Holyland affair, and asked him to meet with Olmert urgently.
She told Dachner that the police were going to call him in for questioning and asked him not to say anything about his activities regarding Olmert confidant Uri Messer. Zaken is also suspected of asking Messer not to reveal Olmert's alleged involvement in the affair.
Zaken was released yesterday to house arrest after seven days in Neveh Tirzah Prison. She has been prohibited from being in contact with anyone but her attorneys, husband and children.
She is not allowed even to greet Olmert, whom she is expected to meet in the docket at the Jerusalem District Court. Zaken and Olmert are both on trial in the Rishon Tours double-billing, "cash envelopes" and Investment Center cases, which are to resume Thursday after a month's hiatus.
According to officials close to the investigation, Zaken is cooperating and consistently denies that she or Olmert took bribes. Olmert's PR consultant Amir Dan said yesterday that the police have been making big headlines at his expense but have not asked him even one question.
Meanwhile, the police are expected to ask the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court today to extend the remand of Meir Rabin, the alleged intermediary in the Holyland affair. Rabin, who has been in custody for 30 days, is suspected of involvement in 18 different cases under investigation by the fraud squad. He has refused to cooperate with the police, and over the past few days has reportedly stuffed toilet paper in his ears to avoid hearing the questions put to him.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador yesterday met with police investigators and the prosecutors overseeing the case.
Law-enforcement sources say there is enough evidence to indict some of those involved in the affair, but in some cases, including Olmert's, more evidence is needed.
Meanwhile, the local planning and building committee in the Jerusalem municipality is to meet today to discuss the future of the Holyland project. On the agenda are permits to build three more towers (out of a total of five planned) in the coming years.
Jerusalem city engineer Shlomo Eshkol and the city's legal adviser, Yossi Havilio, say that if the three towers are built, they will greatly exceed the original plan in terms of building rights and numbers of residential units. They have decided to freeze the permits, a very rare move.
Attorney Rafi Ettinger of the law firm Yigal Arnon, who is representing Holyland Park, the developers of the project, rejected Eshkol and Havilio's claims as "populist and immaterial."
Ettinger says Holyland Park has a permit to excavate, which did not require the presentation of a full plan. "When the decision was made, the city had all the data," Ettinger said. "The developer does not intend to build even one meter unless it is approved by law, but the committee does not have the authority to revoke permits that have been given."