On the third day of a highly publicized corruption trial against several public figures, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, the key witness accused former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and the city's chief engineer Uri Sheetrit of taking part in the bribery scheme designed to cut the red tape in the construction of the controversial Holyland residential complex in the city.
Over the past two days, the state's witness (referred to as S.D.) mainly talked about the large sums of money that had been allegedly transferred to Olmert during his term as the mayor of Jerusalem, when the Holyland project took off.
At the beginning of the court hearing, all 13 defendants and the representatives of the three corporations mentioned in the indictment entered non-guilty pleas for all counts, which are elaborated at length in the indictment's statement of facts.
On the stand, the state's witness elaborated on the ties he had maintained with Lupolianski, who at the time of the alleged offenses served as Deputy Mayor and the Chairman of the Subcommittee for Zoning and Construction and the head of Yad Sarah (a volunteer organization that provides care to disabled and elderly people).
The state's witness claimed that he had not donated any money to Yad Sarah until he had met Lupolianski.
According to his testimony, when the two first met, Lupolianski expressed his misgivings about the Holyland project, saying "it is not in line with Jerusalem's character because of its scope." The witness then told Lupolianski that he would be "more than willing to help [Yad Sarah]."
When asked by the judge what caused Lupoianski's about face, the witness said: "Transferring contributions to Yad Sarah." The witness also said he told Hillel Cherny, who was the main rights holder for the property, that it was very important to transfer the funds to the organization. " I told Cherny that it would go a long way [in terms of approving the project] and would have the same weight as a transaction with Mayor Olmert himself."
The witness claimed that between 2 to 2.5 million shekels ($510,000 – $637,000) were transferred to Yad Sarah. Lupolianski's lawyer rebuffed the allegations. At the end of the hearing she said that her client's role on the municipal subcommittee did not elicit the contributions to Yad Sarah and played no role whatsoever in the transactions.
Earlier in his testimony, the State's Witness described the bribe money he allegedly gave to Sheetrit, the city engineer. "He (Sheetrit) would call and say we need to do this and that, and then I would transfer the funds; eventually I stopped paying because the figures became astronomical, almost 800,000 shekels ($204,000)."
The state witness testified that Sheetrit received a total of 1.5 million shekels ($382,000). He added that Olmert approached him asked him to help Sheetrit.
The witness said that Sheetrit had first objected to the re-designation of the property to allow the construction of a residential neighborhood in what was originally zoned for hotel construction. But then Sheetrit said he would approve the plans after being promised bribe money, the witness claimed. "Sheetrit wholeheartedly supported the project," the witness said.
In what was a first for the trial, the witness mentioned the possible complicity of Danny Dankner, Deputy Chairman of Bank Hapoalim at the time (Dankner is standing trial on a different case involving his salt production facilities in southern Israel). Dankner, according to the witness, was the one who helped Sheetrit, by having the latter's outstanding debt to the bank slashed from NIS 3 million to NIS 1.1 million shekels.
Meir Rabin, who was the right hand man to the state witness and is now one of the defendants in the case, was the one who approached Dankner, according to S.D. "Dankner needed Meir to resolve some issue in the Israel Land Administration."