Shula Zaken, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s long-time bureau chief, has offered to testify against her former boss in exchange for a lenient plea bargain.
Her attorneys made the proposal to the prosecution over a week ago, and prosecutors have been considering what to offer in return. The prosecution wants Zaken to do jail time, but her lawyers are insisting on community service only. Prosecutors were slated to discuss the issue with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan last night, and a decision is expected today.
Zaken has offered to supply missing information in the Holyland corruption case, in which Olmert is accused of taking bribes from real estate developers while serving as mayor of Jerusalem and then as industry minister. In particular, she promised information on money transferred by Shmuel Dechner, the alleged middleman for the bribes, to Olmert’s brother Yossi and to attorney Uri Messer, one of Olmert’s closest friends.
But prosecutors have doubts about the feasibility of signing a plea bargain so late in the game, when the trial is almost over. They also have doubts about whether the judge would believe Zaken’s revised story, and they think the case is solid even without her testimony. On the other hand, they would like to hear what she has to say, and they also think her testimony — after years of closely guarding her boss’ secrets — would have public importance.
Zaken has worked for Olmert since she was 17, when she was hired by the law firm Olmert and Messer established, and her loyalty remained unshaken even when she became his co-defendant in an earlier criminal case that forced Olmert to resign as prime minister in 2008. Most people involved in that case say Zaken’s refusal to testify, either to the police or in court, was meant primarily to protect Olmert — and that her silence hurt her.
But the Holyland case increasingly strained their relationship, as Zaken felt that Olmert was deliberately trying to shift the blame onto her. At one point, she was so angered by his testimony that she stormed out of the courtroom.
The camel's back was apparently broken a month ago, when Olmert’s attorney, Roy Blecher, told Channel 2 television that Zaken had lied to the court. Zaken felt betrayed, and her son Nadav lambasted Olmert on Facebook, writing, “Shame on you!” That same day, Zaken ran into Olmert at an event and told him, in the presence of onlookers, “You say I’m corrupt? Let me tell you, everything I did, I learned from you.”
On Monday, Channel 10 television reported that Zaken swore an oath to her father on his deathbed not to incriminate Olmert, but recently asked a rabbinical court to annul her vow.
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