In its final word on the case, the High Court ruled Tuesday on an appeal of the six individuals convicted in the Holyland apartment project case. While former Yerushalayim Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupolianski will not be be going to prison, the court decided, former Mayor and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will – for 18 months.
Rabbi Lupolianski, Olmert, and four other city officials were convicted of their roles in illegally approving the large Holyland apartment project in the Malchah neighborhood of Yerushalayim. The project required extensive changes to zoning laws, and according to prosecutors, the defendants were involved in various schemes and conspiracies to accept money from contractors and other interested parties to change or bend rules, or to look aside as others did.
In its final verdict, Olmert was cleared by the court for his role in the case, which involved accepting NIS 500,000 that had been given to his brother Yossi by Shmuel Dachner, a real estate broker who turned state’s evidence and testified against Olmert. The court ruled that he could not have known where that money came from, but it did rule that he was aware that Dachner had given his long-time assistant, Shula Zaken, NIS 60,000 on behalf of the former Prime Minister.
Speaking after the verdict, Ehud Olmert said that he respected the court’s decision, and that “a great weight” had been lifted from him, with the reduction of his sentence. Nevertheless, he added, he was innocent of the charges, and had never taken a bribe.
Olmert’s legal problems are not over. He faces an additional eight month sentence for allegedly accepting cash from an American businessman in exchange for various political favors. Appeals and further action on that case were suspended until Olmert’s appeal on the Holyland case was heard.
Rabbi Lupolianski had been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the case, but the court instead eliminated that sentence. Instead, Rabbi Lupolianski will do community service for six months. Unlike Olmert, Rabbi Lupolianski did not take any bribes; rather, he suggested that contractors and agents donate money to various charities and causes he was involved in, the court said. Commenting on the decision, Rabbi Lupolianski said that “With Hashem’s help, I will continue serving the Jewish people, as I have for the past 40 years.”
The court ruled on the appeals of other officials charged in the case as well. Former Deputy Mayor Eli Simchayoff will serve 18 months in prison; Meir Rabin, who was a chief assistant to Dachner (who passed away in 2013) got five years; Hillel Charney, one of the principals of the Holyland project, will serve 26 months in prison; and Avigdor Kellner, a founder of the Holyland Park Corporation, the company behind the project, will serve two years in prison.