Avigdor Liberman, among others, told me Ehud Olmert could be bribed, the anonymous state’s witness said Monday morning at Jerusalem District Court, where he was being cross-examined on his testimony in the Holyland case. It was the only way for the project to proceed, he said.
In dramatic testimony, the witness detailed how he had bribed politicians in return for building rights in Tel Aviv before following the same process in Jerusalem.
“The project couldn’t be advanced without a bribe,” the witness — referred to only as S.D. due to a court gag order — recalled telling businessman Hillel Cherney, one of the defendants in the case, before construction of the Holyland residential complex began.
That was how things were done in Tel Aviv during the 1970s and ’80s, S.D. said before going back to the case at hand.
Attorney Yigal Arnon “told me Olmert liked to make money,” he answered when pushed to provide the names of those who allegedly told him bribery was needed. “Others also told me he [Olmert] was corrupt.”
S.D. tried to avoid specifying the “others,” but the judge ordered him to name names or admit the only person allegedly involved was Arnon. S.D. then named the current foreign minister and then-Prime Minister’s Office bureau chief. “Avigdor Liberman said Olmert was corrupt,” he said.
Cherney’s attorney responded quickly in the cross-examination, pointing out that Liberman was Netanyahu’s bureau chief after 1994, while the witness had said he spoke to Cherney before 1994. S.D did not attempt to clear up the apparent contradiction.
The state witness further said no one told him it was possible to bribe Jerusalem’s former mayor Uri Lupolianski, but said he found a way “to get to him” nonetheless.
The credibility of the prosecution’s key witness’s testimony was brought into question when he admitted to having lied under oath about his ties to Cherney and manufactured evidence in a previous court case.
The Holyland case, involving building permits allegedly issued to real estate tycoons in exchange for bribes, is considered one of the largest corruption scandals in Israel’s history. It involves some 15 suspects, including former prime minister Olmert and former Jerusalem mayor Lupolianski.