Shula Zaken, the former bureau chief of former prime minister Ehud Olmert,
stomped out of court on Thursday in dramatic fashion after an exchange in which
she implied he had not defended her sufficiently.
The exchange, which
took place during cross-examination, and on the third day this week of Olmert’s
testimony during his trial in Tel Aviv District Court, began when Judge David
Rozen said Zaken’s receipt of significant funds in checks from the state’s main
witness Shmuel Duchner signified a “corrupt connection” between the
Rozen indicated that Zaken’s receipt of the funds in a context where
Duchner was dependent on Olmert’s office for approvals in moving forward the
Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem was inherently
In response, while Olmert had parried earlier more general
statements by the prosecution and the court against Zaken, he said that her
receipt of the checks was a harder issue, but that he “would not have used the
word ‘corrupt’” as the court did, as “it could be possible to explain her
actions in a different manner – maybe Shula will explain it.”
actions indicated that this qualified denial did not satisfy her.
to filing the case as well as the separate Jerusalem corruption trial, the
prosecution tried hard to convince Zaken to turn state’s witness against Olmert
in exchange for more lenient treatment for herself as a defendant in both
She did not, and has been, until now, seen in court having warm
exchanges with Olmert.
Olmert and Zaken are two of 15 defendants in the
trial, with Olmert accused of receiving NIS 1.5 million in bribes from Duchner
to overcome legal and zoning obstacles for the Holyland project, much of which
supposedly went to Zaken, allegedly at Olmert’s request.
prosecution questioned Olmert about his denial of receiving any funds directly
from Duchner, presenting evidence that Duchner, Duchner’s daughter and one of
his employees had each made donations of around NIS 5,000 to one of Olmert’s
Olmert responded that he had not recalled these donations
because they were so small, continuing by running through a list of donors,
saying that he did not know any of them.
Next, the prosecution and the
court pressed Olmert as to how he could not know any of the listed donors when
in other contexts he has claimed that he tries to keep a personal touch,
including personal telephone calls, in dealing with his donors. Rozen said,
“This is not the Olmert we knew until today, this is a different man
completely,” inverting a similar attack by Olmert earlier on
Olmert said that he simply “did not remember” the donations or
the donor names and attacked the document listing contributions from Duchner and
those close to him as a proven forgery and irrelevant.
In a comical
moment, Rozen responded, “Don’t fight about the legal issues [such as arguing
about whether the document was forged], leave that to [Ro’i] Blechner [Olmert’s
attorney], a great lawyer, just say what you know and what you don’t know, that
will make Blechner happy.”
Olmert responded, “I also want you to be
happy,” to which Rozen said, “I’ll also be happy, and I would be happy to just
end the testimony,” with Olmert quickly echoing “me too.”
Rozen said that
Olmert’s defense that the document was a forgery might not be relevant, since
other evidence had confirmed that the content of the document was accurate
(meaning that that Duchner would have forged a document about events that were
Later, Rozen pressed further, saying “I understand you” in terms
of Olmert’s general denial of knowing about the contributions, “but Duchner was
not from Jerusalem and would not be interested in donating to the mayor of
Jerusalem except for getting influence over the Holyland” project.
responded that “many people contribute to the mayor of Jerusalem,” even those
who are not from the capital, because “people around the country have a special
connection to the city.”
The former prime minister started to continue by
saying that in retrospect, “surely Duchner wanted to show he helped...,” but was
caught off by Rozen who asked, “Who did he want to show” off to? Responding,
Olmert said, “To Shula [Zaken], but I personally never received” or knew about
Olmert displayed a combative exchange with the prosecution
and the court over whether he knew that one city official had been replaced by
another for no apparent reason other than to further a request by Duchner
regarding the Holyland project that the first official had held up.
prosecution argued that Olmert knew (with the court expressing some degree of
agreement that it would make sense for him to have been involved), while Olmert
denied that he would have had any involvement.
He also rejected
allegations by the prosecution that he told Duchner to give NIS 500,000 to his
brother Yossi as a bribe, saying that he had explained that he and Yossi were
not remotely close, that if he had helped him it would have been to find a
legitimate job, and ridiculing the idea that his only way to have helped Yossi
was through bribes from rich friends.
However, as Olmert claimed he did
not know how bad Yossi’s financial situation was – in millions of shekels of
debt, the prosecution tried to raise the court’s doubt about Olmert’s claim by
trying to show that he had opposed Yossi running for public office (which Yossi
ran for anyway and lost) because he knew that it would lead to Yossi having
major financial debts.
Asked why, besides to get Olmert to help Duchner
with the Holyland project, Duchner would have paid Yossi, Olmert said that if he
had known what Duchner was going to do, he would have filed a complaint with the
Rozen also questioned Olmert about how he would not know that New
York businessman Morris Talansky paid $30,000 to Yossi, when Talansky would have
wanted Olmert to know to be properly appreciated. Olmert responded that Talansky
made many donations to him without announcing each one.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!