State Witness Admits to Buying Former Olmert Aide Lavish Gifts

Witness for the state in the Holyland corruption trial testifies in Tel Aviv District Court; Shula Zaken, former PM’s bureau chief already convicted of breach of trust in different case.

Expensive earrings, works of art, and exclusive designer purses were among the gifts given to Shula Zaken, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief, by the state’s witness in the Holyland corruption trial, according to  testimony  given in a Tel Aviv District court on Thursday.

“On one of my visits to the minister's office,” S., the state witness, said, “Mrs. Zaken told me she very much wanted new earrings.  Two or three days later, I brought her earrings that I had purchased at a jewelry store. Mrs. Zaken told me that she didn't like them, and wanted to exchange them.” She did in fact exchange them for rings, which she wore while she interrogated by police.

Asked about his relationship with Zaken (who has already been convicted of breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case, involving double-billing by Olmert's office at the Trade Ministry) and why he had bought her jewelry, S. replied, “The relationship between us was friendly.  She helped me with everything I asked for, I helped her a great deal in material things and with some problems that she had. It was give and take, from a period that began in 1994.”

Asked if he was in a relationship with Zaken, or only a friend,  S. replied, “We never had an intimated relationship,” adding that Zaken once told him that if asked why he had given her jewelry, he should say she was his lover.

When he was asked later by a judge if there had been intimate relations between him and Zaken, he said, “No. Definitely not.”

S. described another time, when he bought Zaken shoes. “She told me she was in Tel Aviv, and asked me to join her because she felt like going shopping,” he said. 

“We met at the Azrieli mall, where she was shopping for shoes.  She said I should wait outside for her, that it would be unusual for a man to come in when a woman was buying shoes.” He waited outside the store, while Zaken chose a pair of shoes that cost NIS 1,300. He then entered the store and paid for them.

 “Afterwards, we went to Kikar Hamedina, and there, Ms. Zaken acquired a handbag from one of the stores,” added S. “I waited outside, then I entered the store and paid for the handbag.” According to S., the handbag cost over NIS 1,500.

S. said he had also purchased a painting of a Jerusalem vista, by noted artist Itcho Rimmer, to hang in Zaken's office.  “When I was in the office, Mrs. Zaken told me that the rear wall of her office was empty, and that she wanted to hang a painting of a Jerusalem landscape there,” he said, adding that he had purchased the picture, which had been hung in Zaken's office but was later found by police in her home.