Police to Question Real-estate Mogul in Connection to Olmert 'Hush Money'

Israeli businessman Alfred Akirov suspected of passing money from former PM to his assistant Shula Zaken in return for her silence.

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Alfred Akirov.
Alfred Akirov.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Businessman Alfred Akirov will be brought in for questioning by police as part of the obstruction-of-justice investigation into former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Investigators from Israel Police’s fraud investigation unit will try to find out if Akirov transferred “hush money” from Olmert to Shula Zaken. Associates of Akirov claim that the money he allegedly sent Zaken was part of a legal business deal involving the Alrov Group, owned by Akirov. They claim that Zaken was employed by the company until April 2013, and her position was to use her connections to plan and organize luxurious conventions at the company’s hotels – Mamilla and the David Citadel. Akirov’s associates claim that Zaken’s salary was 12,000 shekels per month. The Alrov Group confirmed that Zaken was an employee.

The investigation into the new information provided by Zaken against Olmert will deal primarily with pressures applied to Zaken not to sign a state’s witness agreement in the Holyland case over a year ago, as well as information she provided regarding the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs. Olmert was last week convicted of taking bribes in the affair.

The police interrogation will focus primarily on the funding for Zaken’s defense, and financial compensation she allegedly received for keeping quiet. During the Holyland investigation, it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of shekels were deposited into one of Zaken’s son’s accounts from abroad. It was also revealed that, in 2009, Zaken herself received $50,000 from businessman S. Daniel Abraham.

Last October, Olmert confirmed that he helped fund Zaken’s defense through Abraham in the Jerusalem District Court. “I’m glad that he helped her. She was left almost without any way to pay her legal fees. She worked with me 40 years – what, you think I would abandon her?” answered Olmert to a question from prosecutor Yonatan Tadmor.

Akirov is considered a close friend of Olmert’s. In the past, Haaretz has reported that Akirov purchased two of Aliza Olmert’s paintings at a cost of $4,000.

During investigations into the Tax Authority affair, it was revealed that Zaken approached Akirov with a request to help her brother, Yoram Karshi, with a store he wanted to open in a mall. Olmert’s defense attorneys mentioned Akirov’s name as a witness that could rebut Zaken’s new testimony. In response to requests that attorneys Shahar Alon and Eldad Yaniv join the Holyland case as friends of the court, and invite Zaken to provide new testimony in front of Judge David Rozen, Olmert’s lawyers mentioned Akirov’s name as a witness who could testify that Zaken went behind Olmert’s back for her own personal interest.

The police investigation into the Tax Authority scandal revealed that while meeting with Shmulik Ben Moshe, who operates Akirov’s malls, Zaken’s brother called her and said he was being charged a great deal of money, and that his store was being moved. “No, it won’t happen like that,” said Zaken, adding in a threatening tone, “So do they want me to move Alfred now?”

During his testimony then, Akirov stated that Zaken approached him and asked that he assist his brother in dealings with Ben Moshe. “She said that she wants him to deal with her brother, rent him a store in the Mamilla complex, and treat him nicely,” said Akirov. “She asked that he be treated like a preferred customer. Shmulik can give the benefit of an exemption from rent for a few months … in this case I think we can help Yoram out.”

Last Tuesday, the prosecution team met for a meeting with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, in order to make decisions regarding the new information provided by Zaken. The prosecution needs to decide if the Supreme Court – which is currently deliberating the state’s appeals of Olmert’s acquittal in the Rishon Tours and Talanksy affairs – should be involved, and invite Zaken to provide testimony.

The prosecution will want to present Judge Rozen with the new testimony Zaken provided the police, regarding Olmert’s assistance in Zaken’s legal fees, as well as recordings of talks and meetings with Olmert, which Zaken claims can bolster evidence against him in the other scandals. Zaken’s testimony will also include her diary, in which she documented money transfers from Talansky and how Olmert funded his travels, which were not previously seen by the court.

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