The Israeli district court in Occupied Jerusalem on Monday confirmed the validity of three real estate deals struck between officials from the Greek Orthodox Church and overseas straw buyers that acted secretly on behalf of an Israeli right-wing settler group.
According to Maariv newspaper on Tuesday, the district court judge ruled that the agreements, in which three major east Jerusalem buildings, including two hotels, had been leased for 99 renewable years by Ateret Cohanim organization through three overseas holding companies, were “valid and did not involve a fraudulent activity.”
The leased buildings are located in a sensitive Palestinian-populated area of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The judge said the contracts had been signed in 2004 by those authorized by the Patriarchate and the plaintiffs, and thus ordered the Church to pay 30,000 shekels to Ateret Cohanim group in legal costs.
The judgment will bring more unwelcome attention to the Patriarchate, which is already under fire for a series of real estate sales in west Jerusalem, according to Israeli newspapers.
The 2004 agreements were to lease buildings, not to sell them, but they are for 99 years, renewable for another 99 years, which essentially puts them into the settlers’ hands for good in one of the most visible positions in the Old City, between the Jaffa Gate (Bab al-Khalil) and the Old City market.
The agreements were so appalling and devastating to the Palestinians because behind them stood Ateret Cohanim, which works to acquire property to establish a Jewish majority in the Old City and in Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
The first lease was signed in August 2004 between the Patriarchate and Richards Marketing Corporation for the transfer of the New Imperial Hotel at a cost of $1.25 million.
The second, also signed in August 2004, was reached with Berisford Investments Ltd. for the lease on the Petra Hotel, at a cost of $500,000.
A third deal was signed in October 2004 by Gallow Global Ltd. to lease an Old City property and grounds in Muazmia Street 18 for $55,000.
(Source / 01.08.2017)