Former prime minister Olmert and his ex-bureau chief Shula Zaken.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert late Wednesday night lashed out at the police and the prosecution for allegedly trying to unduly influence Monday’s Holyland trial verdict.
He claimed they were manufacturing allegations of his former aide Shula Zaken giving them a tape of him obstructing justice.
According to widespread unconfirmed reports late on Wednesday, Zaken recently provided the police with a tape of Olmert trying to convince her or her son Nadav that Zaken should not turn state’s witness against him in the trial.
The Justice Ministry refused to confirm or deny the reports.
The trial involves Olmert, Zaken and 14 other defendants accused of smoothing over various legal and zoning obstacles for the Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem in exchange for bribes, in one of the worst fraud schemes in the country’s history.
If Olmert is found innocent, he will have dodged over five years of legal bullets and could be on his way to returning to power. If he is found guilty, his career would likely be over, and he could even face jail time.
But the reports fueled speculation that the prosecution might seek to postpone the verdict in order to put Zaken back on the stand against Olmert.
An alternative scenario being speculated on would have the verdict go forward Monday, but the prosecution would file a separate and new indictment against Olmert for allegedly seeking to unduly influence a witness not to provide evidence.
It is unclear if the providing of the alleged tape would get Zaken an immediate plea bargain, if she might get only a deal at the sentencing stage or if she was providing the tape with no guarantees.
Olmert’s public relations team blasted the reports, stating that the “continued slanderous public relations efforts and the line of unending leaks from the police and the prosecution” raise the “serious suspicion of tampering with the legal process” before the court.
The statement continued that the “leaks have only one purpose: to unduly influence the legal process on the eve of the verdict set for Monday,” in order to try to manufacture a smoking gun.
On Monday the High Court of Justice rejected a petition seeking to compel the state to change its recent decision not to cut a deal with Zaken, which presumably removed the last variable in the case and paved the way for Monday’s verdict.
One of the factors the state had cited in rejecting a plea bargain with Zaken was the absence of her having any hard evidence to confirm her allegations against Olmert.
If any of the above speculation is true and a deal is cut or new charges are brought, the alleged tape could be that missing piece.
Still, any new testimony or delaying of the verdict would need the court to approve a highly irregular reopening of the case, which the court would do only in the most extraordinary circumstances.
So whether there is a tape or not, the verdict is so soon and the state has already so publicly rejected Zaken that, short of the tape really being a smoking gun, all of the excitement may go nowhere, and Monday’s verdict may go forward as planned.