JERUSALEM – On June 10, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled against the Greek Orthodox Church and in favor of a radical group, in a 14-year-old case relating to the corrupt sale of significant properties at the entrance to the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Church is determined to continue to pursue the case by all legal means at its disposal, to preserve the Christian presence in Jerusalem and the principles of the Status Quo. A spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church said:
“The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is very disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling on Jaffa Gate. Our legal team presented a clear case of bribery and corruption at the hands of the Plaintiffs, Ateret Cohanim. It is depressing that such corruption is not regarded by the court as having a material impact on the sales that resulted from it.
“The Patriarchate’s concern now lies both with the tenants of the properties in question, and with the continued Christian character of the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Patriarchate is committed to its continued support to the protected tenants of these properties, who are worried about their homes and livelihoods. Together with the other Churches of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate is committed to maintaining the Christian character of the Christian quarter, and unimpeded access to the holy sites for the hundreds of thousands of worshippers and pilgrims who visit each year.”
- Landmark properties at the entrance to the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, appraised at a value of $6.7M USD were sold, without due authority, by a rogue employee of the Greek Orthodox Church for $2.2M USD. The Church organs did not receive the funds.
- The properties were sold to four front companies, secretly controlled by the radical organization Ateret Cohanim.
- The sales were made without the knowledge of the Synod and the proper authorities of the Church, and without authorization, by an employee of the then-Patriarch, Nicolas Papadimas. Following the discovery of the deception, Papadimas, a convicted fraudster, stole church funds and fled the country – first to Greece, it is then believed that he travelled to Panama.
- Following Papadimas’ deception and flight, there is evidence of continuing cash payments made to him from Ateret Cohanim. The details of the financial arrangements between Papadimas and Ateret Cohanim, key to the case, were not revealed by the group.
- Key legal documents used by Papadimas as part of the deception were concluded by lawyers out of the same office as those acting for Ateret Cohanim.
- Ateret Cohanim claimed that despite the clear irregularities and fraudulent nature of the case, the contracts should be considered valid.