Former PM Bureau Chief Suspected of Listening in on Olmert's Phone Line

Shula Zaken, former office manager of Ehud Olmert, has been questioned by police on suspicion of listening in on his telephone conversations without his knowledge. Police sources confirmed yesterday that Zaken, who was Olmert's office manager during his terms as finance minister and as prime minister, was questioned under caution. The State Prosecutor's Office is examining the possibility of bringing charges against Zaken in the matter.

Although police released the details of the other suspicions against Zaken - yesterday it was reported that she will face fraud and breach of trust charges in connection to alleged misconduct at the Tax Authority - the sources said the police did not come forward with its suspicions about eavesdropping because Zaken was "not a public figure."

The police yesterday declined to say whether the investigative team had recommended indicting Zaken for eavesdropping.

Channel 10 news reported yesterday that the suspicions came to light during the police probe of Olmert in the Morris Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. A secretary in Olmert's bureau said Zaken would listen in from her office on Olmert's telephone conversations with Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and former cabinet secretary Israel Maimon, among others.

According to the secretary, Zaken would motion to the other secretaries in the office not to interrupt her when she was eavesdropping.

The secretary said Olmert was not aware that Zaken was listening in on his calls.

Olmert also told police he did not know that Zaken listened to his phone calls, which they said made Zaken's alleged actions illegal. Despite being questioned on the matter Zaken is not expected to face questions about it at a hearing, scheduled for August. After the hearing the state will decide whether to charge Zaken in connection to the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs.

"I can only regret the leak that probably stems from the state prosecutor's frustration over Mr. Talansky's testimony yesterday, which helped Shula Zaken," Zaken's attorney, Micha Pettman, said yesterday. "We are considering approaching senior figures in the State Prosecutor's Office to examine the leak and its motives. With regard to the matter at hand, there is no need to say more about this affair, since it is not included in the summons we received for the hearing, which included only the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs."

Talansky had previously testified that he once gave Zaken an envelope filled with $72,500 for Olmert. But under cross-examination in court Monday he told Pettman that he did not actually remember this; he had merely inferred that it must be so from other evidence the police showed him.

Amir Dan, Olmert's media adviser, said in response: "We don't know about such a thing. It sounds to us like complete foolishness."

A source close to Olmert said the issue of Zaken and the eavesdropping was not surprising: "After the prosecution's defeat in court in the Talansky affair it was trying to redress the damage by sending up trial balloons full of air."