Shula Zaken at Talansky Affair retrial where she testified against her former boss, Ehud Olmert.
(photo credit: GIL YOCHANAN/POOL)
Attorney Eyal Rozovsky hammered away at Shula Zaken, former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s former top aide, as the retrial in the Talansky Affair took a major turn on Thursday.
Rozovsky, the newest member of Olmert’s legal team, tried on Thursday and is expected to continue to try in several more days of cross-examination to brand Zaken as a serial liar, who cut a plea bargain with the state to make up allegations against Olmert in order to escape extended jail time in the separate Holyland real-estate corruption trial, and who tried to blackmail him for all sorts of perks.
Zaken responded: Olmert “did not teach me how to lie, but he taught me how to be an effective liar.”
On Monday, Zaken’s secret tapes of Olmert were finally revealed, and she delivered dramatic testimony saying his “driver brought me money” so I “would not testify” against him.
The core of the prosecution’s case in the Talansky Affair is that Olmert “knew everything, saw everything” regarding the alleged illegal use of funds from a secret safe his confidante Uri Messer kept for him.
Zaken’s statements along with the tapes of her talks with Olmert marked the start of a new level of legal difficulty for him – facing off against someone who knows him through and through.
Turning the tables on Zaken, Olmert’s lawyer played several telephone conversations of Zaken talking to confidantes about the various Olmert-Zaken legal cases, trying to portray her as dishonest and wanting to extort the former prime minister.
Rozovsky played tapes where Zaken essentially said she would “break” Olmert out of anger that he was not doing enough to find her and her son Nadav jobs or admittance to university, despite finding jobs and university acceptances for his son and his security guards.
Zaken admitted that she was jealous, but said that she never asked Olmert for money, and explained that he was supposed to take care of her and her family financially, such as by helping to find them jobs, in exchange for her lying on his behalf – which risked her landing up in prison while he went free.
In another tape that Rozovsky played to ambush Zaken, she is heard calling then-state attorney Moshe Lador a “son of a bitch” for allegedly negotiating with her Holyland trial lawyers for a plea bargain behind her back.
Pressed about how often she lied, Zaken said that she had lied on behalf of Olmert and at his instruction in several cases against him earlier in his career from which he had emerged unscathed.
Yet another tape contains a passage where Zaken talks about having considered fa king a divorce from her husband to help with a cover story from allegations in the Holyland trial.
Once again, while Rozovsky attacked Zaken as having invented the story for her own defense, she accused Olmert of having concocted it.
In another unusual point, prosecutor Uri Korb claimed that Olmert had tried to contact Zaken about the case earlier this week, an allegation that Olmert denied.
Rozovsky was added to a team already staffed by renowned lawyer Eli Zohar in order to bring in new blood who did not know Zaken well (Zohar and his firm had worked with her in the other Olmert cases) so as to have no hesitation about tearing into her on cross-examination.
Olmert’s retrial for the Talansky Affair started in September, in a return to the case that led to his resignation in 2008, but for which he was acquitted originally in July 2012.
The Talansky Affair was the most serious of the three affairs that made up the original Jerusalem District Court trial (which also included the Rishon Tours Affair and the Investment Center Affair – neither of which are part of the retrial).
Should he be convicted in the retrial of the Talansky Affair, Olmert could have years added to the separate sixyear Holyland sentence – which he has appealed.
The Talansky affair involved Olmert allegedly receiving large amounts of cash in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky between 1993 and 2005, not reporting them to the state comptroller, hiding them in Messer’s secret safe, and some of the money disappearing.
The trial continues on Wednesday and likely at least through December and January, which will cover Zaken’s testimony and Olmert’s and others’ counter-testimony attacking her narrative and trustworthiness.