Shula Zaken told the Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday that the state’s main witness had “sold his soul to Satan” in her second day of testimony in the Holyland trial involving her former boss, former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Zaken, who served as Olmert’s bureau chief, added that, “the only bribery that was given in this case was the State of Israel to Duchner,” claiming that state witness Shmuel Duchner had lied about bribing Olmert and Zaken and that the state had unscrupulously bought his story out of excitement for bringing down Olmert.
She also said that in retrospect that her acceptance of gifts and funds from Duchner with a value of hundreds of thousands of shekels in light of the fact that he had significant business with her office regarding the Holyland project was “not appropriate but not criminal.”
The Holyland trial against Olmert, Zaken and 14 other defendants including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, involves the uncovering of an alleged mass plot by businessman Hillel Cherny and Duchner to bribe public officials to overcome legal and zoning obstacles regarding the large real estate project in south Jerusalem, mostly during the years 1993-1999 when Olmert was mayor, but also continuing for some years after.
Zaken explained that she thought Duchner kept giving her gifts because of a “romantic connection” between them and that even when she tried to refuse, he insisted, implying he would be offended if she did not accept his gifts.
She also admitted to “taking day trips” with Duchner in which they would “hold hands” as well as that he called her frequently and invested time in her for years “as a woman” and with “no connection to work,” before he started buying her gifts.
In that light, Zaken said that at the time she ignored the “warning lights” of what such a relationship and gifts could mean with somebody engaged in business with her office, but recognized in retrospect that Duchner had other improper motives.
Duchner’s giving Zaken jewelry, furniture and at one point as much as NIS 350,000, allegedly at Olmert’s request, has put her under the gun numerous times before Judge David Rozen and has also complicated Olmert’s ability to defend himself against bribery charges, though he has denied that he knew that Zaken was receiving funds from Duchner.