(photo credit: REUTERS)
During the summation of the Talansky Affair retrial at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday, prosecutor Uri Korb accused former prime minister Ehud Olmert of lying during the proceedings.
“The lies of Olmert echo in our ears,” Korb, the prosecutor from the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, said in his closing arguments to the court.
“We returned here following an evidentiary earthquake which impacted all of us – I’m speaking of the recordings, the journal and the testimony of [Shula] Zaken,” he said.
The prosecutor was referring to the recordings of Olmert speaking to his top aide of three decades, Shula Zaken, seemingly about how to tailor testimony in the original Talansky Affair trial to beat the charges.
The Talansky Affair retrial relates to allegations that Olmert received large amounts of cash in envelopes from US businessman Morris Talansky, which he allegedly illegally used for personal purposes, as opposed to permitted political purposes and properly reporting the funds as political donations.
Olmert was acquitted in July 2012, but the Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court this summer for a retrial on the basis of the new evidence that was revealed, including the recordings of Zaken-Olmert conversations, Zaken’s journal and Zaken’s turning state’s witness against Olmert.
The original three-judge panel concluded that Olmert’s story contained many lies and that his conduct was at least an ethical violation, but that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had acted fraudulently since it was possible that secret funds he had hidden in a safe and failed to report might have been used for legal political purposes.
Korb said that Zaken’s testimony that Olmert gave her $30,000 for personal use and that he had used funds from the secret safe for expensive cigars, tailored suits and dry cleaning, some of which was confirmed either on the recordings, the journal or both, proved this time that Olmert had used the funds for illegal personal use.
In the original trial, Zaken refused to testify, which made her journal inadmissible as evidence, and she had not yet revealed the existence of her recordings of conversations with Olmert relating to the case.
Olmert had refused to testify in the retrial to rebut the charges against him and explain the seeming contradictions between his testimony in the original trial and his statements in the recordings, Korb noted, saying “his mouth was filled with water.”
He slammed Olmert’s explanation that he decided not to testify to save time in the case as blatantly untrue and strongly implied Olmert was hiding behind silence.
In the last day of Zaken’s testimony in the Talansky Affair retrial, she said that Olmert promised her $10,000 per month if she refused the state’s plea bargain to turn state’s witness against him.
Olmert’s former chief-ofstaff took the state’s deal and turned against her boss to get several years of imprisonment cut from her sentence, and said she never received those funds.
Olmert’s lead lawyer for the retrial, Eyal Rozovsky, who joined up with his prior lawyer, Eli Zohar, pounded away at Zaken’s inconsistent stories and credibility during cross-examination.
He drew attention to areas where Zaken’s claims did not match up with evidence in her journal and attacked the admissibility of the recordings into evidence – arguing they were improperly edited.
Regarding the $30,000 paid to Zaken, Rozovsky claimed the funds were for political purposes since Zaken was a political operative for Olmert.
Judges Jacob Zaban and Moshe Sobel, who were part of the original trial, asked Korb on Sunday about whether he has now proved that Olmert used funds for illegal personal use.
Media speculation has focused on whether the judges are really still unconvinced or whether they are trying to provide cover for overturning their own earlier acquittal of Olmert.
The lead judge on the original panel, Moussia Arad, retired in 2013 and was replaced by Judge Rivkah Friedman-Feldman, who has remained silent throughout the case.