Olmert Hears Former Bureau Chief's Testimony Against Him for First Time

Police grill Israel's former prime minister, leading attorney, for second day over obstruction of justice suspicions.

Olivier Fitoussi

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and one of his attorneys, Navot Tel-Zur, were questioned again Tuesday by police on suspicion of obstruction of justice and suborning a witness in the Holyland case and in the Rishon Tours and Talansky cases.

During questioning, Olmert was confronted with the content of recordings made by his former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, which were played for him for the first time since the investigation began.

An associate of Olmert said that although the former prime minister was surprised by the recordings, he continued to stick to his story − that Zaken initiated the conversations that were recorded and that he helped her with her legal defense costs and by asking associates to give her work because she had been his top aide for decades and he felt obligated. The prosecution suspects Olmert sought to buy her silence with this assistance.

Olmert had already been questioned for eight hours on Monday, and he is expected to undergo further questioning over the next few days.

Tel-Zur was questioned Tuesday for 10 hours, during which he also heard the recordings for the first time.

Meanwhile, Uri Sheetrit, the former Jerusalem city engineer who, along with Olmert and eight others, was convicted last week of bribery in the Holyland case, is being asked by the prosecution to post 2.6 million shekels ($747,500) so that he can leave the country.

All those convicted in the Holyland case had their passports confiscated and were forbidden to travel abroad.

At a hearing Tuesday in the Tel Aviv District Court, Sheetrit said he could not come up with such a sum, but needed to travel because since he was arrested in 2010, his architecture office lost all its work and he had to close it down and work abroad instead.

In response, Judge David Rozen suggested that he ask his employers, businessmen Alfred Akirov and Moti Zisser, to help out.

“He has employers who have money and they can be asked to take out a bank guarantee for the required sum,” said Rozen. “After all, you’re a professional and worth every penny.”

Sheetrit insisted he was not in a position to ask his employers to post bond for him.

Prosecutor Yonatan Tadmor explained that the 26 million shekels was a multiple of the bribe that Sheetrit had received, and a sum that would assure his return to Israel. “He no longer has the presumption of innocence,” Tadmor noted.

Rozen agreed that the sum was reasonable. It was agreed that if Sheetrit manages to raise the money he would come back to court.

Sheetrit is currently planning the renovation of the Lutetia Hotel in Paris, which is owned by Akirov’s Alrov Group.