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JPost ,State witness: Cherny instructed me to give Olmert bribes

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  • Paul
    JPost Sun, Jul 1, 2012 The Jerusalem Post State witness: Cherny instructed me to give Olmert bribes By YONAH BOB, JOANNA PARASZCZUK 07/01/2012 10:25 In first
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2012
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      JPost Sun, Jul 1, 2012
      The Jerusalem Post

      State witness: Cherny instructed me to give Olmert bribes
      07/01/2012 10:25
      In first day of marathon testimony in Holyland trial, "S.D." says the
      businessman approved the bribes he paid out, asked him to head a straw
      company; witness's identity remains under a gag order.


      The state's main witness in the Holyland Affair, whose identity remains
      hidden under a gag order, testified Sunday morning that businessman
      Hilel Cherny directed him to give money to a number of public officials,
      including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was the Jerusalem mayor
      at the time.

      The testimony given at the Tel Aviv District Court, was the first in a
      series of hearings of the state’s main witness that will run from 8:30
      a.m. to 8:00 p.m. almost every day for two weeks. The witness is
      officially known only as “S.D.,” who according to reports is the key to
      the case against Olmert and many of the other defendants.

      "S.D." also testified that Cherny asked him to become the CEO of a straw
      company, saying that Cherny had to approve every action, including to
      whom bribes were paid and the amount of the payments.

      Until now there were only procedural hearings, but this was the
      beginning and one of the most important parts of the state's legal assault.

      The 112-page indictment charges that Holyland real estate developers
      paid tens of millions of shekels to public employees and elected
      officials to advance the Jerusalem construction projects, including by
      substantially shortening planning times, smoothing over planning
      objections, rezoning land, giving tax breaks and increasing the
      permitted amount of construction.

      Indicted alongside Olmert are former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski,
      former Jerusalem deputy mayor and city councilman Eliezer Shamhiof,
      Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken, city councilman Avraham Finer
      and former city engineer Uri Shetret.

      Those also charged include businessman Hilel Cherny, former Polar
      Investments CEO Avigdor Kelner, Polar Investments manager Amnon Safran,
      Shimon Galon, the CEO of Kardan Real Estate and Jerusalem entrepreneur
      Meir Rabin.

      Three companies are named on the indictment: Holyland Tayerut Ltd,
      Holyland Park Ltd and Holyland Leisure Services Ltd.

      The indictment includes charges against former chairman of Bank Hapoalim
      and Israel Salt Industries Dan Dankner and former Israel Lands Authority
      head Yaakov Efrati, for alleged bribery.

      The indictment also alleges bribes relating to Polar Investments’ real
      estate interests in Yavor Farm, Shalem Farm and Mevchur Farm north of
      Kiryat Gat.

      On January 5, 2012, the Tel Aviv District Court issued a gag order
      preventing publication of the name and identity of the main state witness.

      The order is highly unusual because S.D. is a witness who is neither the
      victim, the accused nor an undercover agent, each of who can receive gag
      orders in special circumstances.

      At an earlier hearing in January, Yediot Aharonot and Olmert’s attorney
      both argued that the gag order was “ridiculous” since information in the
      indictment made it easy for people to deduce S.D.’s identity, and that
      these details were already in the public domain on websites such as

      Rejecting these arguments, the court said that the public’s right to
      know had to be balanced with concerns about the integrity of S.D.’s
      testimony if his identity were revealed.

      The court also referred to a police evaluation report regarding
      potential threats and media harassment directed toward S.D. if the gag
      order were lifted.

      Most of what the public has learned officially about S.D. came from a
      statement released about half a year ago by the State Attorney's Office,
      which explained that S.D. first turned to police through his lawyers in
      the second half of 2009. S.D. offered to reveal to the authorities
      everything he knew about the Holyland real estate project and about
      alleged criminal offenses relating to Israel Salt Industries, as well as
      Yavor, Shalem and Mevchur Farms. He did so in order to commence civil
      lawsuits against others involved in the affair.

      Following S.D.’s offer, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein conducted
      negotiations with S.D.’s legal team, alongside a wide range of other law
      enforcement officials.

      Through his lawyers, S.D. revealed details of the alleged corruption
      scandals to the state authorities. After the state verified S.D.’s
      allegations, it granted him immunity and a number of other concessions
      in exchange for full cooperation in prosecuting the case.

      During the investigation, S.D. gave more than 70 statements to the
      police, and handed over a large quantity of documents regarding the
      Holyland Affair and Israel Salt Industries.

      Besides immunity, the state gave S.D. a free pass from the Tax Authority
      (the State Attorney’s Office said this was also because S.D. has no
      financial resources), waived payment of fees for S.D.'s civil suits
      related to the Holyland Affair and covered part of S.D.’s
      Holyland-related legal civil defense expenses, in the amount of NIS
      8,000 per month, from August 2010 through June 2011. The State
      Attorney’s Office explained that it was paying some of S.D.’s legal fees
      to help maintain S.D.’s commitment as a state witness.

      The state’s agreement with S.D. also puts him into the witness
      protection program, along with financial assistance to ensure a
      reasonable standard of living.

      JPost.com staff contributed to this report.
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