With Olmert Convicted, Prosecutors Mull: Quiz Shula Zaken Some More?

The state prosecutor has to decide how to make use of the testimony of the Ehud Olmert's long-time aide against the former PM.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.Credit: Michal Fattal
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

A day after winning a resounding verdict convicting former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Holyland corruption trial, the prosecution team convened at the office of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. They met to discuss new information provided by Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken.

The prosecutor’s office now has to decide how to proceed with an investigation of Olmert for obstruction of justice, and whether to approach the Supreme Court — which is currently considering an appeal filed by the state following Olmert’s acquittal in two other corruption trials, the Rishon Tours and Talansky cases — in an attempt to bring Shula Zaken to the witness stand.

In the earlier rounds of these trials, she chose to remain silent. Olmert is expected to be questioned in the coming days, and the police will proceed with their investigation regardless of the unfolding of the Holyland case.

The decision with regard to obstruction of justice is critical before the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for April 28. Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen commented that he needs to see evidence that Zaken shows contrition and is contributing to the eradication of corruption.

To this end, the prosecutor will want to present Rozen with the new testimony Zaken gave the police relating to Olmert’s financing of her defense in the Jerusalem District Court. The testimony includes recordings of her conversations with Olmert, which she claims will further support the charges against Olmert in the Talansky and RishonTours cases. Her testimony will also bring into evidence Zaken’s personal diaries, which document the transfer of money from Talansky and the methods of funding Olmert’s travels.

The diaries were never presented to the court, since she maintained her silence in those trials. If Rozen realizes that Zaken can alter the two major charges, in addition to evidence relating to Olmert’s obstruction of justice in the Holyland case, he may be persuaded to uphold the plea bargain she agreed to. According to the deal, Zaken will be jailed for 11 months and pay a NIS100,000 ($29,000) fine. If Rozen dismisses the plea bargain, she is expected to go to jail for several years.

It is rare for new evidence to be presented at the appeals stage of a trial, especially after the judges have discussed the arguments of both sides, but criminal trial law allows it. The law stipulates that the court, if it deems it necessary for the carriage of justice, may collect new evidence or instruct the lower court to do so.

People close to Olmert say he is shocked and furious about the verdict. His attorneys are studying the ruling and making preparations for an appeal, based on the fact that Rozen based his decision on logic and common sense rather than concrete evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Olmert accepted bribes.

Ehud Olmert, right, and Shula Zaken in court in September, before their break.Credit: Amit Shabi

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