State's Witness Spins Tale of Bribes

Ehud Olmert remained in contact with S.D. after he became prime minister.

Ehud Olmert remained in contact with S.D., the key prosecution witness in the Holyland case, even after he became prime minister, according to a document submitted on Tuesday to the Tel Aviv District Court.

According to the indictment, in the years that he was mayor of Jerusalem and industry and trade minister Olmert and other officials accepted bribes in exchange for helping developers to obtain approval for projects including the Holyland Park luxury residential complex in the capital. S.D. claims he brokered the bribes.

Tuesday's document shows his ties with S.D. followed Olmert into the Prime Minister's Office. It is a letter dated September 2007 and printed on PMO letterhead, in response to a Rosh Hashanah card from S.D. The typed portion, a standard New Year's greeting, is followed by a personal message in Olmert's own handwriting: "S., as always, you've moved me greatly. I hope all is well with your family. Yours, Ehud."

In response to a question from prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari on Tuesday about the letter, S.D. told the court it was a letter of thanks from Olmert for S.D.'s Rosh Hashanah gift to him. "As the court sees, this is not the standard letter sent out by his office but a letter in which he adds things about our relationship in his own handwriting."

To a follow-up question about Olmert's use of the closing "as always," S.D. said, "You'll have to ask Mr. Olmert." S.D. told the court that during Olmert's term as industry and trade minister he sent Olmert four checks, each for NIS 50,000, through Olmert's office manager, Shula Zaken.

"Mrs. Zaken called and asked if I could send her money," S.D. said. "To the best of my recollection, this was after the Knesset election," he said, adding that Zaken said the money was for "the deficits," presumably from Olmert's election campaign.

S.D. also detailed the bribes says he paid Olmert's successor as mayor, Uri Lupolianski, and municipal engineer Uri Sheetrit.

S.D. said Meir Rabin put him in touch with Dan Dankner, then deputy chairman of Bank Hapoalim, who after meeting with S.D. forgave about NIS 2 million of a loan Sheetrit had with the bank. Rabin allegedly was conveying bribes from Dankner to the then-director of the Israel Lands Administration, Yaakov Efrati, in connection to a zoning request by Dankner's Israel Salt Industries.

S.D. said Lupolianski had introduced him to Zaken when Lupolianski was deputy mayor and head of Jerusalem's zoning board. The state's witness said Lupolianski mentioned that he was collecting donations for Yad Sarah, a charitable organization "founded by his family in honor of his mother," and that S.D. proferred his help.

A meeting arranged by S.D. between Lupolianski and the architect of Holyland Park, S.D. told the court, led to the deputy mayor coming to support the project.

S.D. said he donated between NIS 2 million and NIS 2.5 million to Yad Sarah during the period covered by the criminal case, at that Lupolianski even complained once "that we weren't giving him enough money." Lupolianski, he said, played "a major role" in expediting the Holyland project's approval.