Israeli police want to question at least two prominent Israelis on bribery and corruption charges in the Jerusalem Holyland real estate case, after arresting the lawyer Uri Messer, a longtime partner of ex-prime minister and former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, Wednesday, April 7.
Messer is suspected of acting as go-between in obtaining municipal permits in 1999 for the lavish multi-billion Jerusalem eyesore, the 30-floor Holyland Towers, in the face of widespread public and popular protest.
Police are negotiating with the attorneys of the wanted former officials, some of whom are overseas, on conditions for their return, detention and appearance in court. The court has issued a gag order banning publication of their names.
Thursday, April 8, the president of the Jerusalem district court Mussia Arad, is due to hear the Jerusalem district prosecutor's grounds for his application to reverse the order of testimony in the various graft cases outstanding against Olmert and his former secretary Shula Zaken. The prosecutor is expected to link his request to the findings unfolding in the Holyland investigation, which is led by the National Fraud Unit and Lahav 433 and was described one judge as "one of the gravest cases of public corruption in Israeli history and the cause of irreversible damage to the public interest."
Tuesday and Wednesday, police raided the Jerusalem municipal offices and the premises of the Polar Investment company which built the Holyland complex. Its proprietor Hillel Charni was placed under arrest on suspicion of paying tens of millions of shekels in bribes to top officials for building permits. Also in custody is the former city engineer Uri Shitreet, whom Olmert later awarded a slot on his Kadima party list when he ran for prime minister in 2006.
The Holyland scandal, the most sensational of several cases involving former prime minister Ehud Olmert , finds him travelling overseas. His attorney Eli Zohar said Thursday, he sees no reason why his client should be detained in the Holyland affair, which he said would peter out into nothing like all the other allegations against him.
Notwithstanding the court gag order, the revelations spilling out about the lead characters involved bespeak financial corruption on an unprecedented scale whose ramifications intrude on national politics.
This case presents before a court of justice the long known manifestation of unhealthy interrelations between capitalists and high elected officials, whereby both exploit the latter's public position to pervert the law, cheat the public and steal public funds for their personal enrichment. A nouveau social elite had begun to emerge from the morass of massive personal and political corruption, which many Israelis have come to believe endangers national security no less than any outside peril.
The party affiliation of the suspects in the Holyland affair will no doubt lead voters to ask themselves how so many suspects come from the top ranks of the party which polled the highest number of ballots in the last two elections.