'Zaken transferred NIS 1m. in bribes'

Police suspect former Olmert aide also received jewelery, painting.

May 2, 2010 16:17
3 minute read.
Shula Zaken

Shula Zaken 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])


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A million shekels in bribery money were passed on to former prime minister Ehud Olmert by his ex-aide Shula Zaken, police said on Sunday during a remand hearing held for Zaken at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court.

Zaken allegedly took hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes for herself from property developers backing the Holyland real estate development in Jerusalem, as well as receiving jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels and a painting worth approximately five thousand shekels, the police representative told the court.

In exchange, police suspect, Zaken worked to ensure that businessmen such as Hillel Charni, suspected of paying tens of millions of shekels in bribe, had an "open door" to Olmert as Jerusalem mayor and minister of trade, industry and labor, resulting in the approval of an enlarged Holyland construction project and huge profits for the developers.

The new revelations came as the National Fraud Unit released Zaken to ten days' house arrest. Zaken posted 300,000 shekels bail, and is forbidden from leaving the country for six months. She may only contact her attorney and family members under the terms of her release.

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During the remand hearing, the police representative to court, Ch.-Supt. Assaf Valpish, said Zaken also acted as an intermediary on behalf of former Jerusalem Municipality engineer Uri Sheetrit, who is suspected of dropping his initial opposition to the Holyland project in Jerusalem and becoming a supporter of the plan after receiving very large bribes.

Zaken has faced intense questioning since being arrested last Monday afternoon after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport from Los Angeles. She has consistently denied all charges against her, claiming she merely scheduled appointments between individuals suspected of passing on bribes, and Olmert. But police suspect her of acting as a "main pipeline" for bribe money destined for Olmert and wielding "significant and decisive influence on procedures in the Jerusalem Municipality and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry," according to statements made by police in court last week.

Zaken is also suspected of "conspiring" with former Olmert aide attorney Uri Messer - who was arrested this month in connection with the Holyland investigation - to launder the funds "in sophisticated ways" by producing fictitious receipts aimed at disguising the transfer of bribery money.

Rabin withdraws appeal against extension of custody

Meanwhile, property developer Meir Rabin, who has spent nearly a month in custody after being arrested on suspicion of acting a main bribe intermediary in the Holyland affair and other alleged bribery incidents, withdrew an appeal against an extension of his custody at the Petah Tikva District Court on Sunday, after his attorneys learned that he would likely be released to house arrest on Monday. Should police seek a further extension, special approval from the attorney general would be required, according to legal protocol.

Before the appeal was withdrawn, Valpish told the court that police had not yet completed its questioning of Rabin, adding that the suspect was involved in several bribery affairs. He denied claims by Rabin's attorneys who said that Rabin was being kept behind bars in order to pressure him to turn state's witness.

Last week, police revealed that Rabin was suspected of 18 separate bribery offenses allegedly committed in the Holyland affair, developments by the Zera Company and the Tzuk Menara construction plan, and a fourth investigation centering on former Israel Lands Authority head Yaakov Efrati, who allegedly received a million and a half shekels in bribe from former Bank Hapoalim Chairman Yaakov Efrati in order to ensure that industrial land he owned in Atlit could be converted into profitable real estate developments.

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