Olmert: Sheldon Adelson Told President Bush I Was a Traitor

Former PM calls casino magnate a 'dog and son of a dog' in newly-released recordings of conversations between himself and his assistant Shula Zaken.

Revital Hovel
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Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson,
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Credit: AP
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed in recordings released Thursday that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson had called him a “traitor” in a conversation with then-U.S. President George Bush.

“Adelson, the whore – this dog, son of a dog – went to President Bush and said that I’m a traitor. Bush told me,” Olmert said in a secretly-recorded conversation with his former assistant Shula Zaken. The conversation was held – and recorded by Zaken – in May 2011 during the Holyland bribery case, in which both Olmert and Zaken were convicted.

Adelson is a key supporter of Bush’s Republican Party and of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as owner of the Yisrael Hayom daily newspaper.

The Supreme Court on Thursday released for publication eight cassettes of conversations between Zaken, Olmert and Tel Zur at the request of Haaretz and Channel 10. The recordings came to light when Zaken, who is currently serving a prison sentence, turned state’s witness against her former boss.

In other tapes, Olmert and his lawyer Navot Tel Zur are heard trying to dissuade Zaken from turning state’s evidence. In other conversations, Zaken demands money and Olmert promises her a $10,000 monthly allowance, as well as legal expenses, legal representation and a job – though Olmert is not heard promising the money as a quid pro quo for Zaken’s consent not to turn state’s evidence. In yet another taped conversation, Olmert tells Zaken how to explain in court why she received checks from the late state’s witness Shmuel Dechner.

The content of the eight cassettes that Zaken submitted to the prosecution led the prosecution to open a new investigation against Olmert and Tel Zur on suspicion of obstructing justice and witness tampering.

Zaken and Olmert met in a hotel on May 19, 2011, about a week before Olmert testifies in court in the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases, in which both Zaken and Olmert were defendants. At this stage the prosecution has decided to indict them also for bribery in the Holyland case, subject to a hearing.

In the recording, only part of which was released for publication, Zaken accuses Olmert of not keeping his promises and it is clear she is losing her faith in him.

Zaken: “I think my testimony [to the police in the Holyland case] went well, that is, as far as you’re concerned.”

Olmert: “One problemYou admit he (Dechner) gives contributionshe asked you to cash money for himor it’s evident that [checks] went in and out of the account.”

Zaken: “[I said] I took it on myself to raise funds for Ehudthat I gave Uri [Messer] all the money I got.”

In the Holyland case it transpired that in 2004 Zaken had deposited checks in the total sum of 100,000 shekels, signed by state’s witness Shmuel Dechner, in bank accounts of various family relatives.

The prosecution claimed Zaken had taken some 40,000 shekels for herself and gave Olmert about 60,000 shekels in cash. Zaken admitted she had given the money to Messer.

Olmert tells Zaken she should have said she had cashed the checks for Dechner, or had given the money to the needy.

Zaken: “They wanted me to say I gave you the money, that’s what interested them, OK? Why [should I say] I deposited and withdrew the money?”

Olmert: “You should have said you did it because he asked you to do him a favor, because he needed the cash.”

Zaken: “It’s hard sometimes to lie like that.”

Omert: “For this case alone I have to give the lawyers 2.5 million shekels. Just so you understand I’m in a whirlpool. ... Wherever I go, they talk about me, about my trial. So don’t envy me. I don’t envy you.”

Zaken: “You have five lawyers. I have no one to talk to. Ehud, I’m alone, alone, I have no one to talk to.”

Olmert: “I don’t want anything to happen to you. No judge will acquit me and convict you, but any judge who convicts me will convict you too. Einat [the chief prosecutor in the Jerusalem municipality] told me ‘Sobel [District Judge Moshe Sobel, one of the judges hearing the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases] worships you ’”

In October 2012, three months after Olmert was acquitted in the Talansky and Rishon Tours trials and Zaken was convicted, the two meet. They talk mainly about the January 2013 elections, when there was still a possibility Olmert would run for prime minister and Olmert says he’s had numerous requests to do so.

In December 2013 Olmert meets Zaken in a hotel, six weeks after she stormed out of the courthouse during Olmert’s testimony, enraged that he didn’t defend her when the judge asked him if she was corrupt.

Olmert: “I arranged with [shipping and car magnate] Rami Unger for you to get $10,000 every month but Unger won’t transfer it directly to your account. He doesn’t want to get into trouble. We need another account, maybe abroad, for the money to go through.”

On October 31, 2012 Olmert came to Zaken’s house in a bid to persuade her not to sign a state’s witness deal.

Zaken: “I’m going to prison. I believe fully and I’m certain that my move won’t hurt you. ... It may be unpleasant for you because I was your assistant and secretary but I believe it will clear your way ”

Olmert: “I’m not telling you what to do. Don’t sign before you consult with someone from outside consult with Navot Tel Zur.”

November 2012

Tel Zur meets Zaken in her home and tells her the deal does serious damage to Olmert’s case. “It’s not good for the trial but never mind that, what about you? Do you want to admit to taking bribes? They have a 50,000 shekel bribery case.”

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