Ehud Olmert
Ehud OlmertFlash 90

Speaking on the witness stand Sunday afternoon, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied that he ever took bribes, and that he had approved and promoted the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem without regard to its developers or representatives.

Olmert is accused of having taken a bribe of half a million shekels when he served as Mayor of Jerusalem. The bribe was allegedly given in exchange for building approvals for the massive Holyland luxury housing project in the capital city.

According to prosecutors, deceased state witness Shmuel Dachner testified that Olmert had taken millions of shekels from him, gathered from businesspeople involved in the project, and transferred it to his brother Yossi Olmert, who distributed it as “incentives” to various elected officials and bureaucrats.

Olmert said the he knew Dachner, but that their relationship was strictly above-board.

“I had a relationship with him like with many others,” Olmert said. “He was a very demanding person, insistent on getting what he wanted. My door was always open to him, and when we needed to intervene in the project, we did so. I was never a close friend of his, and all of our dealings were open and above-board.”

Olmert insisted that he never received a bribe – in the form of cash or any other gift – from Dachner, or anyone else connected to the project. Regarding documents the prosecution says it has that claim otherwise – including sworn affidavits by Dachner – Olmert called them “a forgery by a state witness” which should not be taken seriously.

“I told all the contractors involved in the project that it was up to them to push their enterprise forward, and that I would do what I could to help them because I felt the project was a worthy one,” Olmert added. If the municipality went out of its way to move the project along, it was because Olmert and members of the city council felt it was the right thing to do, he said.