Holyland Corruption Suspect Allegedly Covered Cohort's Gray Market Debts

Businessman Hillel Charney, who was arrested in the alleged Holyland bribery scheme, has emerged as one of the key figures in the affair.

Charney, the former owner of the land on which the Holyland residential development was built in Jerusalem and the project's director, is suspected of bribing various officials with millions of shekels to advance the project.

Shmuel Dachner, formerly an adviser and manager in Holyland Tours, quarreled with Charney over commission fees in the Holyland project and became his enemy. A suit Dachner filed last month against a loan company reveals that his debts to gray market money lenders exceed NIS 10 million. The suit sheds some light on Charney's dealings with the gray market.

The Bailiff's Office opened about 20 files against Dachner in recent years for debts exceeding more than NIS 4.52 million. In addition to gray market companies, Dachner owes money to insurance companies, a credit card company, a leasing company and Ramat Gan municipality, among others.

The suit, filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court, says Holyland Tours (1992) Ltd. paid some of Dachner's debts - at least NIS 1.8 million - to gray market lenders.

The suit describes the plaintiff (Dachner) as a "respectable businessman with a resume he could be proud of." Dachner published professional literature including books and some 200 essays, and worked in various building companies in senior positions, including companies like Rasco and Azorim, the suit says.

During 2006 and 2007 Dachner "got into trouble" when he lost his property and took gray market loans of over NIS 10 million at a monthly interest of 5-7 percent. "The plaintiff rapidly plunged into debt without being able to get himself out," the suit says.

According to the suit, Charney helped Dachner keep his head above water and paid back some of his debts to the gray market. But at a later stage the two men quarreled.

Charney agreed at the end of 2007 to pay some of Dachner's debts providing the two reach an agreement about the money he receives from Holyland, according to the suit. Dachner started negotiating with his gray market creditors, intending to reach an agreement with them to pay his debts and collect all the checks he had written to gray market lenders.

Dachner reached an agreement with one loan company to pay it back less than what he owned, in exchange for renouncing his balance and any other claim. In another case Charney paid, via Holyland, NIS 550,000 to a gray market company that Dachner owed NIS 750,000. In another case Charney paid NIS 500,000 to a company Dachner owed NIS 980,000.

Some of the check stubs listed the money Charney gave the gray market companies as "a loan to Shmuel Dachner." During that time Dachner and Charney quarreled over the sums of money Charney owned him for services rendered over the years.

In the course of 2008 Dachner sent Charney a letter with a copy of the suit against him. Charney's aides saw the letter as an extortion attempt.

At one point the Bailiffs officers raided Dachner's home in Tel Aviv's prestigious Kikar Hamedina and seized 23 works of art.