The prosecutor pursuing the conviction of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
and several other defendants implicated in the Holyland
bribery affair have branded the scandal as "one of the gravest corruption cases the state has ever seen."
As the testimony phase of the trial kicked off at the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday, prosecuting attorney Liat Ben Ari said that the "If these exorbitant bribes were indeed doled out, the public interest has been severely compromised. It is therefore our obligation to bring the responsible parties to justice."
The indictment brought against former Jerusalem mayors Olmert and Uri Lupolianski,
Olmert's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken,
businessman Hilel Cherny and several other city and government officials was primarily based on the testimony of a state witness, whose identity is under a gag order.
In court on Sunday (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
The witness blew the lid off the case in 2009 when he informed the authorities of illegal activity related to the development of the luxurious Holyland real estate project.
Olmert and Lupolianski are being charged with accepting bribes, while Zaken is also charged with money laundering. Cherny and other developers are accused of doling out bribes, falsifying documents, committing tax violations and money laundering.
Ben Ari asserted that the charges brought against the defendants would have never been exposed if it wasn't for a business dispute that occurred between Cherny and the state witness, who was involved in the shady dealings.
The focus of Thursday's hearing was the testimony brought forth by the informer, who claimed that while Cherny was the one paying out the bribes, "without Olmert and Lupolianski's blessing the plan would never have gone through."
The developers allegedly paid city officials nearly NIS 10 million (roughly $2.5 million) in order to circumvent bureaucratic and zoning obstacles and to maximize their profits in the long run. The indictment demonstrates the pathway through which the illicit funds were allegedly transferred.
The state witness is expected to testify in several subsequent hearings.