Well – everyone's stunned – but few are surprised.
Here in the Middle East, swindling, lying and deception are often the norm – but this bribery scandal involving 10's of millions of dollars I spoke about a few times on the Harvest Show is way up there on the scale!
It all revolves around dealings by land developers and project managers and government officials who used bribes to avoid 10's of millions of dollars in permits, taxation and levy's – and needless to say, bureaucratic red tape of the Jerusalem Municipality.
The irony here is that it apparently revolves around senior government officials who are the very men who said the municipality isn't receiving enough in taxes to run properly!
And the dramatic development today is that after his arrest, it has come out that the former Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Uri Lupolianski receive bribes of over three million shequels to make things happen – that's around $835,000.
Now the housing project was built during his tenure as Mayor, but it was planned when Mr. Ehud Olmert was in that office.
You may recall that after his time as Mayor, Olmert became the Minister of Industry and Trade, and then Prime Minister.
Now the former Prime Minister has been out of the country in Spain, and cut short his trip arriving back home today, vehemently denying any wrong doing – saying that this is all about character assassination. Now it is reported, that Mr. Olmert is the police's prime suspect in the affair. Olmert has pledged his cooperation.
Police have confirmed that they wish to question him regarding what is being called The Holyland affair – named after the title of the housing project in Jerusalem. The allegation against Mr. Olmert is that he received 3.5 million Sheckels.
So the noose is tightening – and is doing so around at least eight prominent figures – and the police say this is only the beginning, as they learn just how these bribes were paid. Indeed – it has been called a bribe industry.
The fact is, the circle of projects involved is getting larger too, and it is looking worse and worse for these public and private figures – from the top down.
Middle East Correspondent