Olmert Aide Shula Zaken Starts Prison Term for Bribery in Holyland Affair

Zaken begins 11-month sentence for taking bribes and is the first of those convicted in the Holyland case to be locked up.

Tal Shahar

Ehud Olmert’s former aide, Shula Zaken, will start her 11-month prison term Tuesday for her role in the Holyland corruption scandal. She will report to the Neve Tirza women’s prison at noon.

Zaken, who was convicted of bribery, will be the first of those convicted in the Holyland affair to serve the sentence meted out by the Tel Aviv District Court; the others are appealing their convictions to the Supreme Court.

Zaken was meant to enter prison on September 1 but asked to start serving her sentence now, hoping that if she gets a third of her sentence reduced for good behavior, she could be out of prison by Passover. Israel Prison Service regulations also allow for a first furlough after serving a quarter of one’s sentence, so Zaken may be able to get a furlough for Sukkot.

Zaken was convicted of money laundering and of taking 150,000 shekels ($43,800) and gifts as a bribe from the now-deceased state’s witness Shmuel Dechner in the case, involving a luxury building project in Jerusalem. As part of a plea agreement, Zaken gave the prosecution recordings that led to a new police investigation into former Prime Minister Olmert, and a request by prosecutors to reopen the 2013 Talansky case. Then, Olmert was accused of allegedly receiving illicit funds from U.S. businessman and fund-raiser Morris Talansky while serving in various public positions.

If the Supreme Court accepts the prosecution request and sends the Talansky case back to the Jerusalem District Court to hear the new evidence, Zaken will testify in prison garb. Last Thursday, transcripts of two of the tapes the prosecution wants the lower court to hear were submitted to five Supreme Court justices, who are to rule on whether their content justifies reopening the case.

Zaken was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in two previous instances, but did not receive a prison sentence in either case.