The key prosecution witness in the Holyland corruption case claimed Tuesday to have bribed several public figures besides those now in the dock, including former minister Aryeh Deri, Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and former Tel Aviv mayors Shlomo Lahat and Yehoshua Rabinowitz.
Under cross-examination in the Tel Aviv District Court, the witness, S.D., detailed his payments to various public figures. These reportedly included NIS 1.5 million to the most prominent defendant, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during the years when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and then industry and trade minister; NIS 350,000-400,000 to Olmert’s longtime office manager, Shula Zaken; and NIS 2.5 million to Yad Sarah, a charity started by another defendant, former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.
But he also named several people who aren’t defendants in the case. He said he gave NIS 600,000 to NIS 700,000 “as a ‘cast your bread upon the waters’ donation to Shas institutions, to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, for the rabbi’s education fund,” as well as “an annual contribution for Rabbi Aryeh Deri’s legal expenses” during the former Shas minister’s own investigation and trial on corruption charges in the 1990s.
The money for Deri “was received by [former Shas MK] Yair Peretz, but in the end it turned out he didn’t transfer it, but stole it,” S.D. added. “I don’t remember if it was NIS 300,000 or NIS 350,000.”
Asked how he knew it was stolen, S.D. replied that he once asked Deri “why he never said thank you to me, and then it became clear to me that Peretz stole the money. Aryeh said he never got it.”
He also gave money to Lahat’s mayoral campaign in Tel Aviv, he said, but “I don’t remember the amount at the moment. … They asked for 100 walkie-talkies for one day and 15 ‘Elvis’ cars; I don’t know how much that costs.”
His bribe to Rabinowitz, he continued, was in the form of building a park beside the Yarkon River. At the time, S.D. was vice president of the Rassco construction company, and Rassco had won numerous contracts from the Tel Aviv municipality for building two overpasses and expanding the Sde Dov airport. “So then we were asked to donate a public park before the elections. … Back then, people didn’t talk about things like that as bribes.”
“Did you see it as a bribe? Did Rabinowitz understand it as a bribe?” asked attorney Giora Aderet, whose client, Hillel Cherney, owns the Holyland luxury apartment complex in Jerusalem at the center of the case. S.D. replied that he never asked Rabinowitz what he thought, but “yes, I saw it as a bribe.”
“So there was also Shas, and Deri, and the Tel Aviv municipality,” Aderet continued. “Who else have you bribed in your career? Can you tell me?”
“No, I don’t remember,” S.D. answered.
Asked when he began paying bribes to advance the Holyland project, and who he bribed first, S.D. said that the bribes started in 1994, but that he doesn’t remember whether the first recipient was Olmert, then the mayor, or Lupolianski, then head of the municipal planning and building committee.
When Aderet repeated the question, S.D. replied, “The first, to the best of my recollection, was Mrs. Shula Zaken, who asked for money for Mr. Olmert to cover past debts. … To the best of my recollection, it was NIS 100,000 or NIS 200,000 or something like that.”