Jerusalem Court Finds Shula Zaken Guilty of Fraud and Breach of Trust

Prosecution to ask for jail time for Ehud Olmert's former bureau chief.

Shula Zaken, who managed Ehud Olmert's bureau when he was finance minister and prime minister, was found guilty by Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge yesterday of fraud and breach of trust in connection with a wide-ranging case involving corruption. She is the last of the defendants in the case to be convicted. A hearing on her sentence is scheduled for April 24 and the prosecution has said it will ask the court to sentence her to jail time.

Magistrate's Court Judge Haim Li-Ran found Zaken guilty of exploiting her connections with Olmert, while he was minister, to arrange for associates to be appointed to senior positions at the Tax Authority. Zaken denied the allegations, but the judge did not find the denials credible.

Shula Zaken - Olivier Fitoussi - February 2012
Olivier Fitoussi

Transcripts from police interrogations in the case indicate that Zaken, her brother Yoram Karshi and businessman Kobi Ben-Gur worked hand in hand to help Jacky Matza be appointed chairman of the Tax Authority - allegedly in return for helping businessman Simo Tobol extricate himself from an investigation, due to suspicions that he committed major tax evasion.

Zaken was also accused of using her influence with Matza - once he was appointed - to make other staff appointments at the authority that her brother was said to have favored. Zaken claimed to know nothing of her brother's activities.

In his ruling, Judge Li-Ran said Zaken had acted out of highly improper motives and in effect had "turned the keys to the finance minister's office over to her brother."

Yesterday, before the verdict was announced, Zaken expressed full confidence in the court. Despite her conviction, she maintained that stance on leaving the courtroom. However, her lawyer, Micha Fettman, expressed grave disappointment with the verdict and vowed to appeal.

Fettman claimed that Judge Li-Ran based his conviction of Zaken solely on testimony from Yoram Karshi and Matza, both of whom pleaded guilty in the affair in plea bargains.

For his part, however, the judge said the evidence that justified his ruling vis-a-vis Zaken included other witnesses' testimony, wiretap evidence and a session the police arranged in which Zaken was confronted with Jacky Matza and his account of events.

Zaken still faces charges in two other cases: the Rishon Tours case, in which she and Olmert are accused of involvement in double-billing of travel expenses; and the Holyland affair concerning alleged corruption relating to the construction of a massive residential project in Jerusalem, in which the two are among a large group of defendants.