At Holyland Trial, Bureau Chief Stays Devoted to Olmert

Shula Zaken, a close aide to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is charged with taking bribes for herself and Olmert.

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Shula Zaken yesterday told the Tel Aviv District Court hearing the Holyland corruption case that her statement to the police admitting having accepted money from deceased state’s witness Shmuel Dachner was “confused,” and that Dachner was a liar.

Zaken, who for years was a close aide to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is charged with taking bribes for herself and Olmert.

Testifying yesterday, Zaken, who is married, said that she and Dachner, the project manager in the luxury housing development Holyland Park, had become close, and broadly hinted at a romantic relationship. At her initiative, Zaken’s attorney submitted transcripts of recordings of conversations in which Zaken and Dachner used nicknames for each other. Zaken called one of those conversations a “lover’s tiff” and said he didn’t tell her about his relationships with other women because “he wanted me to think I was his one and only.”

Zaken told the court that she would tell Dachner her troubles, adding, “He knew very well how to dry my tears and say a good word … He’d take me out and we’d go to good restaurants to eat, it was nice.”

Zaken added that their relationship “developed slowly, but at a certain point I didn’t want anyone to know about us.” She said not all their meetings were recorded in the office appointment book.

In her statement to police investigators Zaken had confirmed receiving money from Dachner to buy an apartment but said she did not remember the exact amount. She said that Dachner had bought furniture for her new apartment as well as a painting and earrings worth $2,700. When her son was born Dachner gave her a check for NIS 10,000.

“I never in my life asked him for anything, never,” she said. “He offered, and kept offering. Had I accepted everything he offered, the indictment would have to be ... I don’t know how many pages long.

“He gave me the feeling that I was under financial stress all the time and that he wanted to give me money that my husband didn’t know [about] to blow on myself, and that I should enjoy, that I was queen of the world and his great love and that he wants everything in the world for me.”

During her testimony yesterday Zaken repeatedly said Dachner was a liar and that she had tried to catch his eye during his testimony in the trial, and even asked to confront him before the police, but got no response. “I wanted him to look me in the eye so that I could understand why he was doing this, why he was lying,” she said. Dachner died in March.

In court yesterday Zaken praised Olmert, who was listening carefully to her testimony. She said that she abnegated herself for him, and told her family that Olmert was her life’s work. “I totally believed I was with a man who was a true leader and that the State of Israel needs someone like him,” she said.

She described her position as “senior adviser,” who handled Olmert’s schedule, saw to everything that came into the office and who was also involved in fundraising. She was Olmert’s “liaison to the outside” and “the woman who sat outside and saw everything.” She described herself as being destined to serve Olmert.

During her testimony, Zaken, who is standing trial for the third time in recent years, described herself as a “full-time defendant.”

“There are lots of secrets, but none of the secrets are criminal, so why are you persecuting me?” she asked. “It’s a great privilege to serve a great man like that, but should I be punished for that? Well, if I’m going to be punished for that, I accept that punishment with love.”

Shula Zaken arriving at the court on the first day of giving testimony.Credit: Moti Milrod

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