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Monday, March 31, 2014

Finally: Ehud Korruption Olmert convicted on bribery charges

It's been a long time coming, but it's finally happened. Former Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert has been convicted of bribery in what's known as the Holyland case. The Holyland is the eyesore that overlooks the Malcha mall on the right side of the Begin expressway in southern Jerusalem. Eyesore because what was supposed to be a 25,000 square foot project became a colossal 311,000 square foot project due to bribes paid to Olmert and others.

But first, let's go to the videotape.

Completing nearly two years of what may be looked back on as the trial of the century, the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday convicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert on charges of bribery.
With a thundering ruling that will shake the country, Judge David Rozen also convicted former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, former Bank Hapoalim Chairman Dan Dankner, Olmert's former chief-of-staff Shula Zaken and, in total, 10 out of 13 individual defendants (3 defendants are corporations.)
Judge David Rozen said that Olmert lied in court. The court cited Zaken's total devotion to Olmert as proof that he had to know about all of the bribes she was receiving from main state witness Shmuel Duchner.
Rozen said that Zaken even got convicted in the prior Jerusalem corruption trial rather than testify against Olmert.
On the NIS 500,000 in bribes given to Yossi Olmert, Ehud's brother, the court completely rejected Ehud's story that he did not know that Duchner gave the money to Yossi. The court added that there was no reason for Duchner to give Yossi money except at Ehud's request since they did not know each other.
Rozen said that Duchner was always careful to make sure sponsors like Olmert knew he had given bribes to secure their help with the Holyland project.
Olmert was convicted of some of the most serious bribery charges including large sums. Absent Rozen being very sympathetic since Olmert is a former prime minister (and Olmert did get this sympathy at his Jerusalem trial) he could be looking at serious jail time. Sentencing arguments in the case were scheduled to begin on April 28.
The judge completely rejected Zaken's story that money she got from Duchner was not bribes, but part of a romance between them.
Rozen called Zaken a "central mover" in the bribery scheme,  telling the state that he is not convinced he wants to accept an easy sentence for plea bargain. He added that in light of his conviction of Olmert already, it is unclear that her evidence is a "revolution."
Though the state originally rejected Zaken's new evidence as insufficient, at the start of last week, Zaken produced to the state a series of cassette tapes which the state said provide a "serious suspicion" of obstruction of justice and witness tampering against Olmert.
By moving forward with the verdict, the plea bargain reportedly could require Zaken to cooperate with the state in filing a new indictment against Olmert for the obstruction of justice charges – though the state may call it a day having gotten a conviction.
In the Holyland trial,  Olmert was accused of accepting over NIS 1.5 million in bribes (out of around NIS 9 million given to public officials in total), either directly or through Zaken or his brother Yossi to smooth over various legal and zoning obstacles. The allegations relate to the 1993-mid 2000s period while Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and Minister of Infrastructure, Trade and Industry.
The prosecution's closing arguments already significantly backed off of the NIS 1.5 million number to around NIS 800,000.
With a conviction, Olmert's career could be over and he could even face jail time.
Arutz Sheva adds:
Judge Rosen announced the acquittal of real estate men Shimon Galon and Amnon Safran, as well as former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov Efrati. According to law, acquittals need to be announced at the start of the decision.
Other defendants include former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupoliansky, former city engineer Uri Sheetrit, and businessman Hillel Cherney. All in all, there were 13 people and three companies on the defendants' bench in this case. 
The judge noted that the testimony of state witness Dachner was detailed but also contradictory. He preferred Dachner's testimony to Olmert's, however, and it was the key to the conviction. Olmert "tried to besmirch the witness, even at the price of lying to the court," the judge added.
"Hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to public leaders,” wrote Rosen. β€œThe dirty money was given in order to advance the business of the people who gave the money. Every defendant has his own corruption case. Dachner came up with the idea and carried out the bribery deals. In the court, he answered the lawyers' questions as best he could.”
Dachner gave hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes to Zaken, the judge determined. He also "bought Olmert's services," Judge Rosen wrote. Dachner gave Olmert's brother, Yossi, 500,000 shekels, as a favor to Ehud Olmert, the judge found. Yossi Olmert had been a successful and famous academician before he was plunged into debt and left Israel for the United States.
Rosen also had some devastating comments on Israel's political system.
"We're talking about corrupt and filthy practices," Judge David Rosen said while reading out the verdict, his remarks playing out across all Israeli media.    
He also spoke of a "corrupt political system which has decayed over the years... and in which hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to elected officials".    
Rosen also said the former premier had lied to the court in a bid to "blacken the name" of the state's witness.  
Olmert reportedly sat expressionless throughout the verdict.
The reading of the verdict is ongoing and has been followed live by Israeli media since it began, with reporters flitting in and out of the courtroom to report on the developments.
The sides are expected to file appeals to the Supreme Court.
If Olmert's career is over, the system will by definition be cleaner. 

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At 3:47 PM, Blogger Mervyn Doobov said...

Cleaner, but not clean.

PS: May we now tear down the Holyland excrescence?


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