Olmert's Former Bureau Chief: I Learned Corruption From You

Shula Zaken's outburst was provoked by the summations in the Holyland case, submitted last week to the court by the former premier.

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After hearing criticism by her former boss, Ehud Olmert, and comments by his attorney that she lied in testimony in the Holyland affair – Shula Zaken couldn't restrain herself and yelled at Olmert during an event in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The angry outburst by Zaken, Olmert's longtime bureau chief, apparently occurred after she learned of the summations submitted to the court by him in the Holyland case last week, and of comments by his defense attorney on a television show.

At the event, held by a Jerusalem businessman, Zaken took Olmert aside and said to him: “You say I’m corrupt? Then I’ll tell you that everything I did, I learned from you.” The incident was reported for the first time on Channel 2 news.

The affair surrounding construction of the Holyland residential complex in Jerusalem has embroiled many high-ranking officials, among them Olmert, who is suspected of taking bribes from land developers while serving as the city's mayor.

On Monday, Zaken’s son, Nadav, wrote in a Facebook post: “I have not chosen to invoke the right to remain silent ... So after a long time, I want to get what I have to say off my chest: Shame on you, Mr. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – shame on you!!!! More to come ...”

Zaken feels that Olmert insulted her when he testified in the case at the Tel Aviv District Court last October. Sources close to her note that for her part, during hearings in Jerusalem District Court on the Rishon Tours case – also involving her and her former boss – she had invoked the right to remain silent “so that an incumbent prime minister would not be removed from office” – that is, that she had tried to protect Olmert.

In the end, Olmert was acquitted by Zaken was convicted in the Rishon Tours affair (which involved double-billing of various nonprofit organizations to cover Olmert's overseas flights), although she herself had not gone on any of the trips in question. In addition, even before the defendants testified in the still-pending Holyland case, Zaken refused a plea bargain, which in retrospect seems lenient in terms of her current legal situation, that offered her a prison term of 11 months.

When Olmert took the stand in the Holyland case, Judge David Rosen asked him whether the connection between Zaken and state’s witness Shmuel Dachner, the late real estate developer, was tainted by corruption. Olmert did not say anything to protect her, and Zaken stalked out of the courtroom in anger.

In addition, Olmert's defense attorney, Roy Blecher, said in an interview for Channel 2's investigative program "Fact," that Zaken’s version of events in the case involving the Hazera company, which is part of the Holyland file, had been “false and inaccurate.”

Blecher was referring to statements Zaken had made about what happened to 60,000 shekels (about $17,100) out of the 100,000 shekels Olmert had ostensibly received from Dachner, according to the charges in the Hazera case. When questioned, Zaken told both the police and the court that she had given the 60,000 shekels to Olmert’s confidant, Uri Messer, to cover debts incurred during the former prime minister's previous election campaigns. Olmert claimed there were no debts at that time.

In the summations submitted last week, Olmert’s defense attorneys claimed that Zaken had never transferred the money to Messer, but had taken it for herself.

“Zaken’s modus operandi shows that she received the 100,000 shekels from Dachner for her own needs. The money was given to Zaken personally, without any connection to Olmert, as part of the relationship between her and Dachner,” the statement read.

The language used by the lawyers was a good deal softer than the statements Blecher made on "Fact." The word “lie” does not appear in reference to Zaken’s testimony, but she is criticized.

Zaken’s defense attorneys, Ofer Bartal and Dov Gilad Cohen, said, “Shula feels very insulted and very sad over the statements written about her by Olmert’s attorneys, and we have submitted our response to the court.”

A spokesman for Olmert’s bureau commented, “We are sorry that Shula Zaken feels badly over the things that were exposed in court. We've submitted the summations to the court and have nothing to add to them.”

Shula Zaken.Credit: Tal Shahar

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