(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Even when Shula Zaken told police she intended to come clean, she lied to them, saying she had no tapes of discussions with her ex-boss Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister’s attorney told her as he relentlessly cross-examined her in the Talansky Affair retrial on Wednesday.
Eyal Rozovsky, Olmert’s lead lawyer in the retrial in the Jerusalem District Court, joining Eli Zohar, was trying to portray Zaken as a serial liar whose current testimony for the state against Olmert cannot be trusted.
Part of Zaken’s and the state’s strategy to build the credibility of her allegations against Olmert that he directly or indirectly bought her silence in the original 2012 Talansky trial and her willingness to lie for him in the Holyland real estate corruption trial, was to say that she only lied until she made the decision to tell the whole truth to police to turn state’s witness.
The Talansky Affair concerns alleged payment for illegal favors.
Olmert’s lawyer’s point was that even at the point she started to negotiate with police and the state to “tell the truth” against Olmert, she lied to them, denying the existence of any tapes.
Chronologically, Zaken first mentioned the audio tapes to the state only after it rejected her initial offer to cooperate by giving testimony against Olmert, but without mentioning that she had corroborating evidence for her testimony, such as the tapes.
Zaken explained that she had forgotten about the tapes, and only remembered them after the state rejected her initial offer to turn state’s witness, because her son Nadav reminded her of their existence.
Rozovsky tried to poke holes in this story.
He said the story did not make sense, since Zaken has said some of the later recordings had been crucial to her to keep a record of what Olmert said (after she stopped trusting him).
In other words, if Zaken was so concerned to record Olmert’s words to remember them, it is hard to believe that she then forgot about the tapes’ existence entirely.
Also, comparing earlier lists of the tapes to later ones, Rozovsky said that Zaken had purposely deleted some of the tapes to harm Olmert’s case – another alleged sign that she knew about the tapes, but lied to police about their existence until it was clear that she would not get a plea bargain without producing them.
Regarding her testimony against Olmert that former prime minister bought her silence in the original Talansky trial, Rozovsky said that Zaken had received around NIS 1 million from her associate Uri Mantzur to pay her legal fees, without the involvement or knowledge of Olmert.
Rozovsky’s point was that Zaken’s silence was not bought by Olmert, but rather she was silent for personal reasons or reasons connected to Mantzur.
Zaken reiterated that Olmert “bought my silence” and then “threw me to the dogs.”
But when pressed about whether Olmert made a deal with her explicitly asking her not to testify, she demurred, saying “he did not use words like that, instead he said, ‘You won’t make it through [testifying],’ ‘It’s good for you [not to testify]’, ‘He’ll [the prosecutor] kill you [in court].’” She added, “But you would need to be an idiot not to understand” what he meant, continuing that saying things explicitly “is not his style. He was prime minister. Everyone knew that he bought my silence.”
Zaken and Rozovsky exchanged competing narratives over whether statements made by her lawyer in the original Talansky trial, Micha Feitman, about why she did not testify, undermined her narrative, or whether he had made those statements under threat from Olmert’s lawyers.
Feitman had told the court several reasons Zaken had not testified, without saying Olmert bought her silence.