Former mayor of Jerusalem (al-Quds) has been arrested on suspicions of receiving some $750,000 in bribe in Israel’s biggest real estate scandal.
Uri Lupolianski, who was arrested on Wednesday, allegedly received NIS 3 million (nearly $750,000) in bribes during the construction of the contentious Holyland project in al-Quds.
The bribes were allegedly paid to obtain permits for a number of real estate projects, including the Holyland project.
Lupolianski, al-Quds’ deputy mayor under then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and later voted mayor, rejected the allegations against him, saying, “This was 20 years ago, I don’t know why everyone suddenly remembers now."
"A deputy mayor has no responsibility, it’s merely a title, so that it will be nice for him…The mayor is the one who decides, he is the one who chooses the path," the Haaretz daily quoted him as saying.
It is suspected that in return for bribes, Lupolianski acquiesced to the requests of the project’s initiators, and rejected hundreds of objections to the plan, among them the prevention of height restrictions on the buildings by two stories.
Lupolianski is also charged with receiving NIS 1.5 million by 1999 as a senior official in the city council and prior to his appointment as mayor and another NIS 1.4 million between 2000 and 2006.
He allegedly accepted some $30,000 for campaigning during his run for mayor in 2003 and a further NIS 100,000 for the same purpose in 2005.
Late on Wednesday, Olmert curtailed a European tour and returned to Israel to attend a questioning session regarding the Holyland investigation.
The highly controversial Holyland project started during Olmert’s decade-long tenure as mayor of al-Quds, and was completed during Lupolianski’s subsequent term.
Six people were arrested last week in connection with the scandal, including Olmert’s aide Uri Messer.
Indicted on a number of corruption charges, embattled Olmert announced his resignation in September 2008 amid deepening graft allegations, and left office after his hawkish successor Benjamin Netanyahu took power in March 2009.