Holyland in Our Own Backyard?
|Massive Building Projects in Beit Shemesh|
|The Corrupt Holyland Building Development|
Olmert's line of appeal to the Supreme Court is going to be:
1. Ehud Olmert himself didn't receive any bribes - at worst, his brother Yossi did.
2. There is no concrete evidence that even his brother received a bribe.
This defence is unlikely to be accepted, because what Olmert is describing is exactly how a sophisticated operator would take a bribe.
Olmert, a seasoned lawyer and savvy politician, would not have left an obvious paper trail between the Holyland building permits and his personal bank account.
Instead, according to the findings of the court, the contractors paid his (heavily indebted) brother, Yossi, and they didn't even leave a paper trail for that transaction.
The bribery of officials is an ancient art, which has only gotten more sophisticated over the centuries.
Any major contract is vulnerable to the commercial interests using corruption to influence buying decisions.
Bribery is still a part of the business operating culture in under-developed economies. The defence industry in particular, around the world, has regularly used bribery to win contracts.
In Israel, corruption is typically in the field of construction, where many millions of shekels in profitable business can be entrusted into the hands of typically underpaid and under-appreciated officials and middlemen ("askanim").
Only a small proportion of corrupt deals are exposed, because all the parties involved are united by their vulnerability to exposure & prosecution, and so form an impenetrable wall of silence, complicity and cover-up to any enquiring eyes.
The break-through in the Olmert case was the State Witness, Shmuel Duchner.
However, there are common indicators of corruption which should set off warning signals.
1. Overspending: Officials and community askanim who have assets or lifestyle beyond their reasonable legitimate means.
eg. A guy on a government salary who seems to have plenty of cash, cars, homes, vacations...
2. Favouritism: Buildings which get accelerated permits or special treatment. Subcontractors who have preferred or sole source status, for no apparent reason.
3. Cash: In the days of computerised banking, credit cards, et al - the old fashioned cash is still as untraceable as ever.
Watch out for someone insisting that even kosher-looking payments be made in cash without immediate formal tax-receipts. And, on the other hand, legitimate services/products which are paid for with unusually large amounts of cash.
4. Favours: A favour is a service which hasn't yet been paid for. Mutual back-scratching, favour trading, jobs-for-the-boys are all common forms of almost-untraceable corruption.
In short, corruption is common in Israel, although one can spend a lifetime here without ever noticing it.
It's time for all of us to open our eyes.