Former Israeli PM Faces Imminent Arrest


Ehud Olmert to be brought in for questioning about his role in Holyland affair.


By: DAN VERBIN  
Published: April 27th 2010
in News » Israel


Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under police surveillance for his alleged role in the Holyland affair and may be arrested in the next few days.

 

Israeli newswire News1 reported on Tuesday that police will shortly be summoning Olmert to interrogate him about his involvement in the Holyland residence project. Olmert was Prime Minister until March 2009 and served as Mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003.

 

Yoav Itzhaq, News1’s publisher, is reporting that Olmert may be arrested before the end of the week. The timing will depend on whether Shula Zaqen, Olmert’s former bureau chief, provides police with enough information to incriminate Olmert with receiving bribes.

 

Yesterday, Zaqen was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport while returning from the US. She is being held at the Neve Tirza Prison for her alleged role in the scandal, accused of brokering and transferring bribe money to Olmert in return for his cooperation in the Holyland deal.  Zaqen will soon be questioned at the National Fraud Investigation Unit offices in Lod.

 

Investigators are hoping that Zaqen will be able to shed some light on meetings between Olmert and others involved in the scandal. Zaqen was responsible for scheduling the meetings between Olmert and suspects who have turned state witnesses.  Police think that she may have attended the meetings as well, taking the bribe money from the Holyland developers.

 

She will first be interrogated on Olmert’s role in the scandal, followed by questions pertaining to her direct involvement.

 

Olmert is alleged to have taken bribes to permit the construction of the contentious Holyland residential construction plan in Jerusalem, built on the grounds of the Holyland Hotel. During his tenure as mayor, Olmert allowed the project to go ahead despite a substantial public outcry.

 

Fearing obstruction of the investigation, the Israeli police, according Itzhaq, have taken special precautions to spy on Olmert. His meetings are documented, phone calls are recorded and the police acquired a court order allowing them to monitor the bank transactions of Olmert and his wife Aliza. Furthermore, Olmert will not be allowed to leave Israel for business meetings or vacations until the Holyland scandal investigation has concluded.

 

It is also being reported that after interrogating Olmert’s attorney Uri Messer, police are discussing the appropriate time to bring Olmert in for questioning. “One has to bear in mind (Olmert) is a very clever, sharp man. We are getting prepared and tying up all the loose ends to avoid future questioning,” a police source told Ynet.

 

Also on Tuesday, former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Yehoshua Polak, appeared before the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. He was released under house arrest for the next 10 days and will have to give up his passport and post bail.

 

Polak was arrested last week by the fraud investigation unit for his alleged role in the scandal. He is accused of receiving bribes, being a go-between, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, and conspiring to commit a crime.

 

Polak currently serves as the treasurer of Beitar Illit, a settlement city in the West Bank. He was the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem between 2003 and 2008. He is suspected of taking hundreds of thousands of shekels for pushing the Holyland project as chairman of Jerusalem’s planning and building board.

 

Another key figure in the Holyland affair, Meir Rabin, who is accused of being a go-between for bribe money, has been in consultation with rabbis about his next move. And Haaretz is reporting that he may be about to talk.

 

While it is thought that the rabbis have not told Rabin what to do, if he talks, police and prosecutors think that he will be able to reveal crucial information that will incriminate other suspects.

 

Rabin has been in police custody for the past few days and has not fingered anyone so far. However, last week, two of Rabin’s brothers spoke to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky for advice. The rabbi is the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who is the spiritual leader of the Lithuanian Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community. Rabin is reportedly close to Kanievsky and considers himself the rabbi’s student.

 

Shas is not responding to a statement by Rabin’s attorney, Gioria Zilbershtein, that Rabin was interrogated by the police about handing over millions of shekels to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

 

Rabin’s attorney also mentioned that police questioned his client about transferring money to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, former minister of health Dan Naveh and Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham Balila (former Minister of Tourism).

 

A Shas official told Haaretz that Rabin never visited Rabbi Ovadia and they are not familiar with him. Lieberman, Naveh and Balila all deny Rabin’s lawyer’s accusations.

 

It is expected that additional construction on the Holyland project will be frozen, likely due to the unfolding bribery allegations. Influential voices within the Jerusalem municipal government as seeking a meeting of the planning and construction committee next Monday to discuss putting a halt to the development.

 

City Engineer Shlomo Eshkol and Jerusalem Municipality legal adviser, Yossi Havilio, told Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yosef Alalo that they are recommending stopping construction, identifying three buildings which were not part of the original plans and therefore should have their building permits revoked.



Related articles: (Holyland, Ehud Olmert, Lieberman, Jerusalem, bribes, Shas, Uri Messer, Yehoshua Polak, Ovadia Yosef )




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