State Witness in Holyland Corruption Case Against Former PM Olmert Dies

S.D., who suffered from severe health problems, died after testifying in court to seeing NIS millions in bribes passed to Ehud Olmert to expedite construction of the Holyland luxury complex in Jerusalem.

The state witness in the Holyland case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert died Friday morning at age 75. S.D., a resident of Tel Aviv, suffered from severe health problems and therefore testified in court in recent days, earlier than originally planned.

Olmert, who served as Jerusalem mayor from 1993-2003, is accused of expediting the expanded construction of the Holyland luxury apartment complex – from which the case takes its name – and facilitating other real estate ventures in exchange for bribes paid not to him but to others, including his indebted brother Yossi Olmert. Olmert has admitted to receiving the cash, but the statement by S.D., who served as a representative of the Holyland developers, is the only evidence it was transferred at Ehud Olmert's request.

In 2010, S.D. told the police that overseen millions of shekels in bribes being transferred to Olmert and other senior officials in the Jerusalem Municipality and Israel Lands Adminsitration, in exchange for inflated building rights in the Jerusalem Holyland project.

S.D.'s testimony led to indictments against 16 people accused in the case, among them former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was serving at the time as Jerusalem mayor and minister of industry, trade and labor, as well as former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken.

S.D. claimed in court that this was the first time Olmert asked for something from the developers. But Olmert's attorney Roy Blecher argued the letter was forged years later with the aim of implicating Olmert in the affair. As proof, he said the letter was imprinted with a logo from one of S.D.'s companies with a seven-digit phone number that had only existed since 1996.

S.D. responded that the document presented to the court was a more recent photocopy of the original document from 1994. When Rosen asked if he had used fake documents in the past, S.D. said that he had "but not as a habit."

The witness, a native of Romania and Holocaust survivor, served in senior positions in several companies. He also tried his luck in real estate, but didn't succeed and left Israel. Upon returning to Israel at the end of the 1980's, he served as a real estate consultant, and over the years, was employed, as he defined it as a "manager" or business adviser in the Holyland project.