Police Believe Holyland Bribe Money Is Stashed in Foreign Financial Institutions

The Israeli authorities have approached foreign anti-money-laundering agencies to help investigate the Holyland corruption affair, sources close to the investigation have told Haaretz.

The police are investigating whether some of the money from the alleged bribes has been transferred abroad to private bank accounts or shell companies.

Haaretz reported yesterday that Israel Tax Authority investigators took part in the questioning of former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner. He is suspected of bribing the former director of the Israel Lands Administration, Yaakov Efrati, to further the interests of Dankner's company, Israel Salt Industries.

A source close to the investigation told Haaretz yesterday that Israel needed the help of countries allegedly used for laundering the bribe payments.

On Sunday, the Central District Court will consider an appeal by Meir Rabin, whom the police say is involved in 18 different cases in the affair. They say he delivered bribes to officials at the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem municipality.

Rabin's investigation continued yesterday, the 26th day of his arrest. The police plan to ask Chief Superintendent Ephraim Bracha, who is considered an expert on recruiting state witnesses, to step in and convince Rabin to testify.

Rabin's associates said yesterday he had lost trust in the investigators after they threatened to make him the fall guy if he didn't cooperate. His attorneys, Giora Zilberstein and Eli Cohen, said recently that a state witness' testimony in this affair would not be strong enough, so more evidence was needed. The police have said they have additional evidence on the affair.

Such a prolonged arrest in a white-collar case is unusual, but the police insisted yesterday that it was necessary because of the depth and scope of Rabin's involvement. It was also necessary because of fears he might try to obstruct the investigation, they said.

The police presented the court this week with a classified report they say strengthens suspicions that Rabin tried to obstruct the investigation when he learned of it. The court extended Rabin's remand until Monday.

Meanwhile, police officials close to the investigation are trying to play down expectations that a key suspect in the affair, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, will be interrogated soon.

"He will be summoned when there are questions to ask him," one of the officials said. However, it is expected that Olmert's confidante and former office manager Shula Zaken will not be released from her remand until after Olmert is interrogated. This would prevent any obstruction of justice by her.