State Recommends Indicting Zaken for Eavesdropping on PM's Phone Calls

The Jerusalem district prosecutor yesterday acted in two of the cases surrounding former prime minister Ehud Olmert, as he indicted one of Olmert's former associates and considered pressing charges against another. The prosecutor brought charges against Olmert's travel coordinator, Rachel Risby-Raz, in the expenses-fraud case, and also said he was considering indicting his one-time bureau chief, Shula Zaken, for fraud, breach of trust, and for listening in on the prime minister's phone calls.

Zaken is suspected of listening in on Olmert's calls on a regular basis for about three years, while he served as industry, trade and employment minister, finance minister and acting prime minister. Among other calls she eavesdropped almost daily to his conversations with ministers, political activists and his bureau chief, Oved Yehezkel.

Olmert told police during his interrogation that he had not given Zaken permission to listen to his calls and that neither he nor those he was talking to were aware that their calls were being overheard.

Olmert's media adviser Amir Dan commented yesterday: "This is totally groundless, part of the persecution of Zaken. Olmert has no complaints in this matter and it's a pity the prosecution is wasting time and money on such nonsense."

Sources in the prosecution say that Zaken and other secretaries, on her instructions, eavesdropped on dozens of calls a month and that they had to report to her on the conversations' contents.

Last week Zaken was indicted for fraud and breach of trust vis-a-vis the Tax Authority. She allegedly used her power and influence as bureau chief of Olmert, first when he was finance minister, and later as prime minister, to enable businesspeople Kobi Ben-Gur and her brother, Yoram Karashi, to gain influence in the Tax Authority. They did so by advancing certain officials, such as former authority head Jackie Matza, who were then expected to feel beholden to them and serve their interests.

Sources close to Olmert said yesterday that indicting Zaken in the Tax Authority affair and the announcement about her possible indictment for eavesdropping amounted to revenge by the prosecution for recent testimony by Morris Talansky that was considered to be favorable to Zaken. Talansky said in his testimony that he doubted Zaken knew what the cash envelopes he had turned over to Olmert over a period of years contained. In an earlier statement, last year, Talansky had told police that Zaken had been involved in demanding money regularly and received many cash envelopes personally.

The move to indict Rachel Risby-Raz follows prosecutors' decision to reject her statements in a hearing during the investigation. Olmert is suspected of taking funding from multiple sources for the same flights, and of allegedly using the surplus money to finance family trips abroad.

The prosecutor's office sent a letter to Risby-Raz yesterday, outlining the reasons for rejecting her testimony. The prosecutors dismissed claims by Risby-Raz's lawyers that she had been questioned without caution by police. Because of this, her lawyers had argued, she could not be indicted.

The hearings for Olmert himelf are scheduled to take place during August. His attorneys are still coonsidering whether or not to show up, in view of their fear that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has already made up his mind to indict Olmert in three of the affairs he is allegedly involved in.

Risby-Raz is suspected of being involved in fraud in aggravated circumstances, breach of trust and falsifying documents, at Olmert and Zaken's instructions.