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Supreme Court to Rule on Cremeiux St. Case Against Olmert

Though the Cremeiux St. case against Olmert was closed by the State Prosecution, the Supreme Court has suggested that the decision be reconsidered.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/14/2010, 1:13 PM / Last Update: 6/14/2010, 1:43 PM

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Even as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to be investigated in the Holyland project scandal in Jerusalem, another set of real estate accusations against him also refuses to go away. Though the case known as the Cremeiux St. house was closed by the State Prosecution, the Supreme Court has suggested that the decision be reconsidered.

The State Prosecution has already turned down the idea, and the Supreme Court will issue its final ruling on the matter at a later date.

The case began in 2006 when investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchak revealed that Olmert had received a discount of more than $300,000 on his purchase of a luxury apartment on Cremeiux St. in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was alleged that Olmert, who was Minister of Trade at the time, was to “return the favor” to the contractor in the form of rushed-up approval proceedings for the entire project. The State Comptroller's Report of 2006 repeated the accusations.

Olmert has claimed that the price he paid, $1.2 million, was not significantly lower than the going price per meter in the area at the time. Yitzchak, on the other hand, said that Olmert received security guarantees worth $1.5 million – proof that he paid less than the worth.

Last year, then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz closed the case against Olmert, based on police evaluations that the available evidence was insufficient for an indictment. Journalist Yitzchak promptly filed suit in the Supreme Court against the decision, claiming that the decision was “mistaken in the extreme” in that government ministers are not permitted to receive benefits of this nature, and because it weakened the fight against governmental corruption.

A decision against other officials in the Jerusalem Municipality regarding the same case is pending – and the judges asked the Prosecution to reconsider, or at least suspend, its decision until a ruling on the others is handed down. The Prosecution representative explained that in his opinion, the two were not necessarily connected. The judges – Rivlin, Procaccia and Fogelman – said they would issue their ruling on Yitzchak’s suit at a later date.

In the meantime, the apartment in question is no longer in Olmert’s possession. The original owner was forced to liquidate its assets last year, and Olmert received 6.5 million shekels in exchange for giving up all rights to the apartment. He originally paid $1.2 million in cash for the apartment in October 2004, equivalent at the time to 6.0085 million shekels. He cannot therefore be said to have done tremendously well on the deal, having "profited” 8.15% over five years, not including the various expenses and fees he likely paid for the apartment, as well as lawyers’ costs in defending the purchase, over that period. 

More recently, Olmert has also been questioned on suspicion of breach of trust, having received bribes and money laundering in connection with the Holyland luxury building project in southern Jerusalem. He has denied any wrong-doing.