Police Grill Olmert Over Holyland Ties

Ehud Olmert's first day of questioning in the Holyland bribery case came to a close yesterday after eight hours of interrogation by National Fraud Unit agents in Lod. The former prime minister is suspected of receiving over NIS 1 million in exchange for promoting the interests of real estate developers.

At the start of questioning, Olmert was informed that he was being questioned under caution on suspicion of accepting bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering while serving as mayor of Jerusalem and later as minister of industry and trade.

Olmert castigated his interrogators at the start of the session over what he called systemic leaking of information related to his case, such as the date of his first summons for questioning.

A law-enforcement official told Haaretz that during the initial phase of questioning, investigators headed by incoming fraud unit head Ziva Agami-Cohen will not confront Olmert with the testimonies of the over 100 individuals involved in the Holyland affair. Instead, he will be asked to provide explanations over his ties to the developers in question.

Olmert maintained that he had not accepted bribes from any of the key figures in the affair, including Shmuel Dachner or Hillel Charney, the owner of the land on which the Holyland project was erected. Olmert also denied illicitly receiving funds via his former bureau chief Shula Zaken and close associate Uri Messer to push through the project.

The former premier reiterated that his involvement in the Holyland project was limited to its initial stages, and that he played no part in influencing authorizations made after he had left his post as mayor of Jerusalem.

Law enforcement agents said yesterday that suspicions against Olmert are based on firm evidence, only some of which has been presented to the suspect thus far. Individuals close to the investigation said Olmert will not come face-to-face with Dachner at this early stage, and such an encounter would come in the investigation's later stages if at all.

Still, Olmert was presented with testimony Dachner made to police and documents drafted by fraud unit authorities.

Olmert will undergo further questioning on Sunday, and will later be questioned another two or three times.

Amid the ongoing inquest, authorities are launching a round of investigations in the United States aimed at tracking the routes by which Olmert allegedly received money from his brother Yossi, who resides in the United States

The atmosphere in the interrogation room yesterday was markedly different from that of previous investigations against Olmert, which took place while he was prime minister. Most significantly, the location was different - on the investigators' "home turf" rather than in the prime minister's compound. In contrast to previous interrogations, Olmert did not verbally assault against investigators but remained calm throughout.