The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Shula Zaken on Sunday of fraud and
breach of trust offenses in regard to the Tax Authority affair, one of the most
serious cases of public-sector corruption in Israeli history.
broke in 2007 after the National Fraud Squad gathered sufficient evidence in a
covert operation, including by wiretapping suspects, in 2006.
found Zaken guilty of abusing her position as bureau chief in the office of
then-finance minister Ehud Olmert between October 2005 and March 2006 by
brokering bribes to advance the personal interests of her brother, Yoram
Her trial was held separately from that of the other defendants
in the affair. Three have already been sentenced to prison terms by the Central
District Court in Petah Tikva.
Former Tax Authority head Jackie Matza was
convicted under a plea bargain in January 2011 on four counts of fraud and
breach of trust, and one count of being an accessory to a bribe, and was
sentenced to a year in prison and another year’s suspended
Karshi was sentenced to seven months in prison, and Yigal Saar,
the former Tax Authority representative in the US, was sentenced to five months in prison and a 12-month suspended
Saar was accused of asking Karshi and another businessman,
Yaakov Ben-Gur, to help him become deputy Tax Authority head. Karshi contacted
Matza, who promised to appoint Saar, but later reneged on that promise. Karshi
then asked Zaken not to schedule a meeting between Matza and Olmert, where Matza
planned to pass on the names of candidates he wanted to appoint to various
posts. She did as her brother asked.
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Ben-Gur was handed down a sixmonth
community-service sentence after his lawyers agreed to a plea bargain with the
Shmuel Bobrov, the former Tax Authority deputy director-general
for administration, was convicted of four counts of fraud and breach of trust,
also under a plea bargain, and sentenced to six months of community
In convicting Zaken on Sunday, Judge Haim Li-Ran said her
testimony before the court and statements to police had been “packed with
inaccuracies” and that her version of events did “not hold water.”
judge noted that Zaken had argued, among other things, that she tried to make an
appointment for Matza with the finance minister, but that the meeting had been
delayed because of Olmert’s schedule.
She also testified that she did not
know of any connection between Matza and her brother, even though she told
police that she had known about a long-standing relationship between the
Zaken also testified that her brother did not know anything about
her work even though she also testified that she had consulted with him about it
on various matters.
Li-Ran said these were examples of a “pattern” that
Zaken had exhibited in her testimony during the trial.
He also criticized
Zaken for abusing her position of “gatekeeper” in the Finance Minister’s Office,
adding that she had done so for “extraneous and improper reasons that had
nothing to do with her role in order to hinder the promotion of government
“[Zaken] ‘handed over’ to her brother a central and
important facet of her authority and entrusted him with the ‘key’ to the
Minister’s Office, something that should have been wielded by her alone; at
least so far as the appointment of the deputy director of the Tax Authority,”
the judge said.
After the verdict was read, Zaken’s lawyer, Micha
Fettman, said he was “disappointed.”
“We must respect the court’s
decision, and that is what we are doing,” he said. “However, we do not accept
it. We will study the verdict, and then we will consider our options
Following the verdict, Li-Ran ruled that the court would
hear sentencing arguments for Zaken on April 24. The penal code calls for a
maximum punishment of three years in prison for the offense of fraud and breach
In response to Zaken’s conviction, a spokesman for the Labor
Party said “it has been made clear today that Zaken is a criminal offender who
operated while serving as Olmert’s bureau chief.
In convicting her, the
court has made an important further step in the campaign to eradicate government
Zaken faces charges in two other corruption cases. She is
currently standing trial alongside Olmert in the Jerusalem District Court where
she has been indicted in connection with the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs.
That trial is in its summing-up phase.
Zaken was also indicted in
connection with the Holyland real estate corruption scandal, which opened this
month in the Tel Aviv District Court.
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