Shmuel Dachner, a prominent businessman and real estate broker who died Friday, was named Tuesday as the state witness at the heart of the Holyland corruption trial involving former prime minister Ehud Olmert and others.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen cleared Dachner’s name for publication, reversing a longstanding gag order that permitted printing only his initials.
Dachner was 76 years old and in poor health, having been hospitalized repeatedly during the legal saga. Since July, Dachner had testified in over 70 hearings of the Holyland affair, billed as Israel’s largest corruption scandal. The case revolves around a real estate development project in the capital in which dozens of city officials, including Olmert, who was mayor of Jerusalem at the time, are accused of accepting bribes.
The Economist reported in 2010 that Dachner testified to having “served for years as the Holyland project’s fixer… [and] funnelled millions of dollars in bribes to elected officials and civil servants in order to expand the original plan for three modest hotels on the hillside into a massive nine-tower complex, which a judge has termed an architectural monstrosity.”
Dachner was born in 1937 in Romania and immigrated to Israel in 1950. His main occupation for the past decade was the Holyland project where he worked for Hillel Charney, one of the suspects on trial in the case. Dachner also kept close contact with senior members of the Israel Land Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Much of the case against Olmert hinges on Dachner’s testimony and it was not immediately clear how the court would proceed with the trial following the witness’s death. Prosecutors, however, said Friday that they would continue trying the case as planned, but that the star witness’s crucial testimony would now carry less weight.
Earlier in July 2012, Olmert lashed out at Dachner publicly, calling him a “dubious liar.”
After Dachner’s death, Rosen rejected the prosecution’s request for time to regroup and said the trial would continue as scheduled. He instructed prosecutors to call witnesses on Tuesday from a list that had already been prepared. These witnesses were only scheduled to appear after the completion of Dachner’s testimony.