Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convicted of accepting bribes in Holyland case

Revital Hovel — Haaretz March 31, 2014

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday of accepting bribes in the Holyland corruption case.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen convicted Olmert of accepting bribes when he was mayor of Jerusalem in exchange for helping the developers of the Holyland Park residential project in the city. Shula Zaken, Olmert’s former bureau chief, was also convicted of accepting bribes on Monday.

Olmert was charged with accepting several bribes, among them NIS 500,000 through his brother Yossi and NIS 600,000 through Zaken.

Rozen said Monday that the former prime minister lied to the court. “Olmert tried to tarnish the name of the state witness and told lies in court,” he said. “I reject Olmert’s account of events entirely,” Rozen said. “The state witness bought the services of Ehud Olmert. The state witness transferred NIS 500,000 to Yossi Olmert following Ehud Olmert’s request.”

Hillel Cherney, who is the owner of the Holyland complex and the key of 13 suspects on trial in the bribery case, was convicted Monday of bribing Jerusalem officials. Avigdor Kellner, one of the founders of “Holyland Park” company, was convicted of bribery charges, but acquitted of other charges. Meir Rabin, right-hand man to state witness Shmuel Dechner was also convicted.

Uri Lupolianski, who served as mayor of Jerusalem after Olmert’s tenure was over, was convicted of accepting bribes, as was Uri Shitrit, the capital’s former chief engineer.

The head of the Israel Land Administration Yaakov Efrati was acquitted, as were Amnon Saffran and Shimon Galon, managers at the “Holyland Park” company.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Olmert’s former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, who was also a defendant and whose testimony in the case was inconsistent, was negotiating with prosecutors to obtain a plea bargain in exchange for turning state’s witness and providing more information.

On Sunday, the court said that it would postpone until the following day a decision on whether to accede to the prosecution’s request to allow former Olmert’s bureau chief Shula Zaken to testify again in the Holyland case implicating her former boss. On Monday, the court ruled that it will not postpone the case and announce the verdict.

The verdict comes only two years after the indictments were issued against 13 defendants in one of the largest corruption scandals ever exposed in Israel. Rozen heard the case at a very fast pace, holding hearings three to four times a week. The evidentiary stage ended in November, after 9,000 pages of transcripts, 800 exhibits by the prosecution and 500 by the defense.

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