State says no deal with former Olmert aide who was set to testify against ex-boss

Justice Ministry halts negotiations with lawyers representing Shula Zaken.

March 7, 2014 01:31
2 minute read.
Olmert and Zaken

Former prime minister Olmert and his ex-bureau chief Shula Zaken. (photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The Justice Ministry on Thursday overnight announced that it would not be cutting a plea bargain deal with Shula Zaken to turn state's witness against Ehud Olmert in the Holyland trial.

Following Zaken's testimony and providing new evidence to police on Wednesday, the Justice Ministry remarked that it had ceased negotiations with Zaken's lawyers.

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While the ministry did not fully explain the decision, the clear implication was that Zaken lacked documentary evidence to corroborate her new testimony as well as the late stage of the case.

Amir Dan, Olmert's spokesman, immediately responded slamming Zaken and the state as having conducted a sideshow to improperly influence the court's verdict in the case - due to be handed down on March 31.

He added that the end to talks between the state and Zaken exposed the true intentions of the talks and proved once again that there was no real evidence against the former prime minister.

Previously, The Jerusalem Post had learned that the potential deal was up in the air despite Zaken's accepting the prosecutions' condition that she serve reduced jail time of around a year, as opposed to complete immunity.

In that context, the prosecution was only going to agree to a plea bargain of reduced jail time if Zaken added something substantially new to the mix which would significantly help it in both the Holyland and Jerusalem corruption trials.

The Holyland trial is one of the largest bribery and fraud schemes ever uncovered with Olmert and Zaken being two of 16 prominent defendants accused of giving or receiving bribes to smooth over legal and zoning obstacles to the Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem.

Zaken had remained staunchly loyal to Olmert over five years of trials until recently, when his and his lawyer's statements against her angered her and led to her possible change of heart to cooperate with the state.

But it appears that the significant procedural and substantive challenges to the prosecution trying to use anything new that Zaken offers since the Jerusalem trial ended with a mostly not guilty verdict for Olmert in July 2012 and the Holyland trial is essentially done, were too great an obstacle.

In fact, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen only recently announced the March 31 verdict date, potentially signaling that he is impatient with the parties to decide on the deal or maybe even that he would not agree to let Zaken return to the witness stand.

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