Judges Answer Their Own Questions About Zaken Conviction

There was no smile on the face of Shula Zaken when she left the courtroom on Tuesday. Zaken, who was Ehud Olmert's bureau chief and right-hand woman through all the years he served as mayor, minister and then prime minister, was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case, unlike her former boss.

Zaken's conviction posed a legal and moral dilemma for the judges, since not only was she Olmert's subordinate, she did not benefit from the fraud, as Olmert and his family had.

"The result in which a defendant, the defendant's superior and occupier of high office, is acquitted, while the defendant who is subordinate to him and acts on his behalf is convicted, seems to raise questions," the judges wrote in their ruling.

The answer, the judges said, lies in the unusual relationship between Olmert and Zaken. Zaken, they determined, "was his close confidant ... she was totally in control of everything that happened in his office ... She took a bank loan on her own, without the defendant's knowledge ... signed checks for him ... and listened in on his phone conversations."

As a result, the judges said, it was certainly possible that Zaken, who was involved in all the details of Olmert's travel plans and in the misrepresentations to various organizations about travel payments, and who approved the double-billings for Olmert's private journeys, could have done so without Olmert's knowledge.

Zaken's guilt was strengthened in the judges' eyes, they said, because she refused to testify. )