Wall Street crooks walk
away free every time. So do their London counterparts and other corporate
Crime pays so why not commit it. The only penalty is nasty headlines
for a few days and minor slap on the wrist fines or admonishments about
promising no repeats. At least not until next week.
Most politicians also get off easy, and not just in America.
In August 2009, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was indicted
in three corruption cases. They related to Rishon Tours as well as the
Talansky and Investment Center affairs. More on them below.
On January 5, 2012, he and 17 others were indicted for allegedly giving
or receiving bribes related to various real estate deals.
He was charged with taking bribes worth 1.5 million NISs (Israeli New
The so-called Holyland case made headlines. It's a Jerusalem luxury
housing project. Olmert was city mayor at the time. Later he was Israel
Land Administration minister.
On January 8, a Haaretz editorial headlined "Holyland corruption case
is a fight for Israel's soul," saying:
"The Israeli entire public must reject corruption and remove those stained
by it from government."
The Holyland complex "emerge(d) as an extravagant memorial to municipal
corruption, riches to entrepreneurs, fringe benefits to elected officials,
and kickbacks to go-betweens."
In other words, it was business as usual for crooked profiteers and
complicit politicians. Haaretz called the case "a watershed in the way
the public relates to the conduct of government."
Whether those indicted are convicted or exonerated, "the system....will
find it hard to present a defense...."
It's fundamentally corrupt. It's rife with bribes, kickbacks, and cronyism.
Crimes are committed multiple ways. Everyone involved has both hands
in the till. The resulting architecture makes Israel's skyline "ugly."
On April 26, 2010, Israel's Ynet News headlined "Der Spiegel: Israel
is a corrupt country," saying:
Israelis know it. So do Germans. Headlines explain it. Der Spiegel covered
it in an article headlined "The land of affairs." Jerusalem corruption
is replicated throughout the country.
At the time, Der Spiegel writer Kristof Schult said Olmert might find
himself in prison. So far, he got off nearly scot-free. More on that
His article said increasing numbers of Israelis believe their main threat
is internal. He didn't mean bomb-throwing terrorists. Haaretz urged
Israeli judges to "reject corruption and remove those stained by it
Nearly two years after the news broke, indictments were handed down.
Besides Olmert, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and former Israel
Land Administration (ILA) director Yaakov Efrati face charges.
A key prosecution witness, identified only as "S," served as middleman
in corrupt deals. He told police that "in talks I held with Mayor Olmert,
with chairman of the local planning and building committee Lupolianski
and with members of the local committee, it was made clear to me that
via the 'give and take' method, I could get (what) I desired."
"I want to stress: The hints were from those people to me, not the reverse,
because I wouldn't have dared."
The deal involved developers getting huge tax breaks, additional building
rights, and other benefits worth tens of millions of dirty dollars.
The Holyland Park Corporation and businessman Hillel Charney asked for
plea bargain consideration on lesser charges with no indictment. He's
implicated in bribing city officials.
In 1999, he got land in question rezoned for residential use. Originally
it was for hotels. He won approval to build apartments. He sold part
of it to Holyland Park Corporation (HPC). It's also a defendant in the
Like in America, Israeli corruption runs broad and deep.
From 2003 - 2007, HPC and complicit parties bribed Jerusalem officials.
In return they got what they wanted. At the same time, so did others
for farmland and other rezoning priorities. Months of investigation
put the pieces together.
Olmert was implicated in earlier financial crimes. In 1988, he was involved
in forging Likud party campaign donation receipts. Others were convicted.
He got off scot-free.
He lives a charmed life. Maybe he pulls the right strings with the right
people in the right places.
He faced three earlier corruption charges. They involved Rishon Tours
as well as Talansky and Investment Center affairs.
On July 9, he was acquitted on Rishon Tours and Talansky charges. He
was convicted only of breach of trust in the Investment Center case.
Talansky accusations forced his resignation as prime minister.
Reasonable doubt got him off. Jerusalem District Court president Mossia
"The defendant's claim that he wasn't aware of it, has its problems,
but there wasn't enough evidence presented to prove that his version
of events isn't reasonable. (T)here were no clear directives or procedures."
The court accepted Olmert's argument about disorder in his office as
prime minister, but not corruption.
"We arrived at the conclusion that the evidence does not prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the defendants chose a course of action that would
gain the defendant profits," said Arad.
"(N)o document was found in which the defendant directed Risby-Raz to
collect the extra money. Indeed, there are documents that could point
to the defendant's awareness of surpluses."
"(T)here was no joint fraud system by the defendant and Rishon Tours.
There were no special relations with the Rishon Tours owners, and no
proof of a system to produce profits."
Observers called it one of Israel's most significant corruption trials.
Charges involved events occurring from 2002 - 2006. At the time, Olmert
was Jerusalem mayor. Later he was ILA minister.
He was accused of double-billing $92,000. His Rishon Tours account held
funds in that amount stolen from public organizations. He allegedly
used it for private travel for himself and family members.
He built a relationship with Rishon Tours owner Emanuel Baumelshpiner.
Charges alleged he ordered his agency to transfer funds from other customer
accounts without their authorization or knowledge.
In the Talansky affair, Olmert was charged with receiving $600,000 from
US businessman Morris Talansky from 1993 - 2005. In return, it was alleged
he helped him with various business deals. Olmert claimed the funds
were for political, not personal, use.
The court held that despite evidence of conflict of interest, none proved
he used his office for criminal wrongdoing. Prosecutors failed to prove
charges beyond a reasonable doubt, it said. As a result, conviction
Olmert was also accused of failing to disclose US businessman Joe Almaliah's
donations to Israel's state comptroller as well as misleading him about
Again the court ruled that prosecutors failed to make their case.
Olmert was convicted on one minor breach of trust charge. It was for
failing to disqualify himself from oversight from various transactions.
Despite considerable evidence, he escaped conviction on multiple counts
of fraud. Overall, he dodged a bullet, but he's not home free yet.
He still faces trial on Holyland charges. As explained above, it's for
allegedly accepting bribes as Jerusalem mayor to facilitate its construction.
On July 10, Haaretz headlined "Verdict shows Olmert was no saint, but
trial reflects a desecration of Israeli democracy," saying:
Talansky charges forced his resignation as prime minister. He left office
"shamed and humiliated." Charges "sealed his political-public coffin."
He was publicly called a "scoundrel, a liar, a schemer and a thief."
Despite his acquittal, some observers and members of his own party believe
he's guilty "beyond all reasonable doubt." Exoneration doesn't prove
Even conviction only of breach of trust is no "cause for celebration
or pride...." Calling his offense a "procedural impropriety" avoids
issues of justice.
Holyland bribe charges remain. A key state witness will soon testify.
If evidence he presents looks credible, "Olmert can expect another grueling
year of process and testimonies."
If he dodges another bullet, will he attempt a political comeback? Voters
will have final say on that score.
A Final Comment
Months before Rishon Tours, Talansky and Investment center charges surfaced,
Gideon Levy called Olmert a "hedonistic, spendthrift prime minister,
a relatively small-time, corrupt man who, like many others, did not
know where to draw the line between public and private money and who
- like many of his colleagues....thought that a politician deserves
He "and his transgressions will be remembered as a footnote in history,"
He stressed a far graver issue. It involves unequal judicial treatment
for Jews and Arabs as well as Israel's rich and poor.
"Can anyone seriously claim that a wealthy (Jew) armed with a phalanx
of high-priced lawyers is consigned to the same legal fate as" any Arab
or ordinary Israeli, Levy asked?
Israel's legal system reveals apartheid justice as well as unequal treatment
for rich and poor Jews. Stealing shekels doesn't rise to that level
of criminality. It's not even discussed in judicial or political circles.
Israel has no profiles of courage able to transform itself into a legitimate,
just, democratic state respecting the rights of everyone. It remains
a fundamentally flawed rogue state threatening humanity.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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