Gag Order Lifted on Contents of Shula Zaken's Date Book

Police have documents pointing to possible collusion of Shula Zaken in the bribery scandal.

The police have documents pointing to the possible collusion of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief, Shula Zaken, in the bribery scandal, which involves hundreds of thousands of dollars. Haaretz has had access for some time to these key documents, which sparked the most recent investigation against Olmert, but they were under a gag order until Wednesday night.

Police sources say the fraud squad seized several of these documents, described only as memorandums, several weeks ago from Zaken's computer in the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry. Zaken was Olmert's bureau chief when he was minister there a few years ago.

In one of the documents, written in September 2005, Zaken wrote the names of Attorney Uri Messer and businessman and fund-raiser Morris Talansky, who is suspected of bribing Olmert with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dates and sums of money appear beside each name.

"Messer has 274,000 - 1.6.2005," "30.6.05 I gave Uri 23,950 from Talansky. Talansky owes 6,500, 12.08. I gave Uri 7,500 from Talansky," Zaken wrote.

This memorandum raises suspicions that Zaken, Olmert's closest confidant over the past 25 years, served as a liaison between Talansky and Messer.

Talansky told police that he had given cash to Olmert and Zaken. Messer told police that from time to time, he gave Olmert money from Messer's safe, at his request. Police believe the money in Messer's safe came from Talansky.

Another memorandum Zaken wrote in April 2006, a month after Olmert was elected prime minister, says: "Ask Uri Messer - new year. Last year I received 30."

Immediately after the gag order was lifted Wednesday, Olmert held a news conference and said the funds Talansky had raised overseas were intended for his numerous campaigns.

No election campaigns were held in September 2005, when the first document was written, or on the dates Zaken listed. Perhaps Olmert's explanation is that the sums were for covering deficits. However, the prosecution and police suspect that the money Olmert received from Talansky was bribe money.

Zaken's documents were passed on by Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry officials to the State Comptroller at the beginning of 2007. They were submitted as part of the comptroller's probe into Olmert's involvement in funneling tens of millions of shekels to the Dimona Silica Industries, which was represented by his good friend and former partner Messer.

The comptroller wrote in his report summary in April 2007 that Olmert's acts raise the suspicion of criminal doings, and recommended that the attorney general open a criminal inquiry against him.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz delayed his decision on whether to open the probe for months, even though Zaken's documents were already in the prosecution's hands. He finally ordered the probe in October 2007.

Mazuz issued a statement saying that he decided to open the probe following Haaretz Magazine's expose about the give-and-take relations between Olmert and Messer. Earlier this week, Channel 2's Fact program said that in the summer of 2006, immediately after Haaretz's expose of Olmert's involvement in advancing Messer's clients' interests, Messer took the money out of his office safe and returned it to Zaken.

The prosecution held on to Zaken's memorandums for months without giving them to the police investigation team. Only this March, following the intervention of Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom, did the police obtain the memorandums from Zaken's computer in the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry and begin to examine the new suspicions.

The documents and other material gathered by the detectives were shown to the main suspects - Zaken, Talansky and Messer. Talansky and Messer's testimonies were reportedly very harmful to Olmert. Zaken chose to exercise the right to remain silent.