State Witness at Holyland Trial: Without Olmert, the Project Would Not Have Gone Forward

The state witness, who is known only as 'S.', tells a Tel Aviv court that Olmert gave his blessing to illegal land scheme.

A state witness told a Tel Aviv court that he acted as a middleman between businessmen and public officials on Sunday, in the opening of the evidence phase of the Holyland trial.

The state witness, who is known only as "S.", told the court that he previously revealed three bribery cases worth millions of shekels concerning real estate deals.

As a result of S.'s initial testimony, 16 suspects were charged including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who served at the time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Moshe Luplianski, who succeeded Olmert as mayor, Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken, and Danny Dankner, former chairman of Bank Hapoalim's board of directors.

After serving the indictments, head of the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor's Office Ella Rubinek said that they "tell a complex, unprecedented tale of corrupt connections between entrepreneurs who offered bribes, and a long line of public servants and publicly elected officials, who received the bribes"

According to the Holyland Affair indictment, businessman Hillel Cherny, who is the owner of the land in question, acted to change the designation of the real estate to enable the construction of a residential area. Between 1994 and 2007, Cherney and S., together with S.'s assistant Meir Rabin, are said to have paid millions of Shekels in bribes. After the lands' designation was changed, Cherney sold part of the lands to a company named "Holyland Park," headed by three other defendants, including former Polar Investments CEO Avigdor Kelner, who owns a stake in Holyland.

The prosecutor's office claims that "during this period, carrying out a systematic and ongoing plan, the entrepreneurs, S. and Rabin, bribed a long list of elected officials and public servants in the Jerusalem municipality, in order to persuade them to support the project."

During his testimony, S. claimed that he acted as a middleman between the entrepreneur and the elected officials. S. admitted that he forwarded the requests to the authorities and was constantly in touch with the officials: "At the end of the day… due to the criminal activity I carried out with the full knowledge and approval of Cherney, and through his funding, we managed to secure 311 thousand square meters for construction instead of only 25,000 square meters," S. said.

"Since it was legally impossible to acquire the number of meters I believed we could attain unless we could secure the cooperation," S. continued, "in return for bribes, we arranged a very long meeting, maybe more than one, I don't recall, but definitely one long meeting, in which I insinuated I was ready to be the front man, and accept responsibility for everything."

S. stated that he presented the plans to Moshe Luplianski, who was at the time head of the local planning committee, and to the mayor at the time, Ehud Olmert. "They were the central people, and without their blessing the plan couldn't be carried out," S. added.

S. further stated that Cherney was supposed to pay the bribe, but adding that it was agreed that he would represent the Holyland project. "The municipality and other factors knew that I represented the project as far as the construction was concerned," S. stated.

At approximately 2:50 P.M., the court was adjourned after S. said he was not feeling well. His testimony will continue on Monday.

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