shula zaken 298 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak, who was the first to write about the Holyland affair and whose information launched the police investigation in July 2008, on Wednesday sharply criticized journalists who claimed that Zaken was considering turning state’s witness.
He described the reports as “irresponsible” and said they were utterly false.
Zaken’s lawyer, Micha Fetman, also charged that the reports were “detached from reality” and that they had “saddened and hurt Ms. Zaken.”
Assuming that Fetman’s denial, which was backed up independently by the Ministry of Justice, is true, the reports raise disturbing questions about the way the issue was covered by various media outlets.
Leaving the facts aside for a moment, there was something logical, and even enticing, about the possibility that Zaken would turn state’s witness.
The logic behind such a presumption lies in the fact that if the allegations that she passed on bribe money to her former boss, Ehud Olmert, are true, she herself could be charged with accepting a bribe.
According to Article 295 (b) of the Penal Law, under the title “Intermediaries,” “If a person receives money, valuable consideration, a service or any other benefit intended to induce – by himself or through another – a public servant [...] to give preferential treatment or to practice discrimination, he shall be treated as having taken a bribe.”
Article 295 (d) elaborates that “for the purposes of this section, ‘receiving’ includes receiving on behalf of or through another person.”
The maximum penalty for this offense is seven years in jail.
Thus, if the allegations under investigation by police turn out to be true, Zaken faces a harsh punishment.
Added to this is the fact that as far as we know, Zaken did not derive any personal benefit from the Holyland affair or any of the other affairs for which she has been indicted.
Given that she derived no direct benefit from the various affairs and now faces the possibility of prison, it would be understandable if she decided to turn against her long-time boss and confidante.
The possibility is enticing because assuming that the bribery allegations are true, and Zaken knew about the payments, her testimony would guarantee Olmert’s conviction. At the moment, to a substantial degree, the state’s case against Olmert and all the other suspects rests on the testimony of businessman Shmuel Dechner, who admits to having negotiated the bribes on behalf of Holyland Park. He does not seem to be a particularly trustworthy source of information.
Although the state maintains that it has strong corroborating evidence, these claims could well be part of a police propaganda campaign to shake up the other suspects.
Having Zaken testify for the state would almost certainly sew up the case – assuming there is a case.
There is also the human element involved in the drama. After all, Olmert and Zaken have worked together intimately for about 30 years. He took her with him when he opened his own law office together with Uri Messer in the 1980s and they were together until both ran into trouble with the law. What a human interest story it would have been had she turned against him now.
But Zaken apparently has no intention of doing so. Yitzhak, the
investigative reporter who well knows the personalities involved, said
Zaken is utterly loyal to Olmert and would never betray him.
But there may also be less altruistic forces at play, Yitzhak added.
Just as Zaken knows a great deal about Olmert, so Olmert knows a great
deal about her. It’s possible that there is a mutual deterrent in their
relationship. By the same token, unlike the Rishontours and Talansky
affairs, where only Olmert and Zaken (not counting Olmert’s foreign
liaison Rachael Rizby-Ras in the Rishontours case) were involved, there
are many high-powered suspects in the Holyland affair and some of them
might be able and willing to hurt her if she switched sides.