The state witness in the largest real estate scandal in Israel’s history testified in court Tuesday that former Jerusalem city engineer Uri Shetrit received money to pay off his debts.
The ailing witness, who is identified only as S.D., told the Tel Aviv Regional Court that at the request of former prime minister Ehud Olmert he gave Shetrit three checks worth over NIS 130,000.
Shetrit served as city engineer and head of the Planning Department in Jerusalem from 2001 to 2005.
“I saw this as a window of opportunity,” S.D. said. “On the one hand it was to cover [Shetrit’s] debts, and on the other hand at that time we were in discussions about the Holyland project that a few months later was submitted for approval by the local planning committee.”
In another self-confessed payoff S.D. said that in order to advance the real-estate project at the heart of the affair he made donations to Yad Sarah, a charity organization at the time chaired by the then Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski.
S.D. also described how Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken asked for money around 2002-2003 as Olmert transitioned from mayor of Jerusalem to Knesset member.
“She told me that they needed the money due to deficits incurred during the elections,” S.D. said.
The Holyland affair revolves around a large Jerusalem real estate corruption scandal involving Olmert, Shetrit, former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, and other city officials.
As the trial continues, the court agreed that S.D., an elderly man, only give testimony till 2 p.m. daily. The move came after the first two days of proceedings this week were cut short when S.D. complained of a headache and ended his testimony early.