Charges imminent in Tax Authority case

8 suspects, including former Olmert aide Zaken, set to be indicted for fraud, bribery, breach of trust.

shula zaken 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
shula zaken 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
The State Attorney's Office on Monday notified six suspects in the so-called Tax Authority affair, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert's close aide, Shula Zaken, and former head of the authority Jacky Matza, that they stand to be indicted in the near future, after claims made by their lawyers in their hearings were rejected. Businessmen Kobi Ben-Gur and Yoram Karshi, Zaken's brother, allegedly bribed Tax Authority officials including Matza. In return, the officials supposedly promised to do the bidding of Ben-Gur and Karshi in making other appointments and in granting tax benefits to them and their friends. Zaken allegedly helped Karshi by arranging for Matza's appointment and by subsequently pressuring Matza to promote and appoint the employees that Karshi and Ben-Gur wanted. "The bribery in this case was offered [by Karshi and Ben-Gur] by way of using their influence to advance employees inside the authority," according to a statement issued by the Justice Ministry spokesman last July. "Ben-Gur and Karshi, who accumulated enormous influence in the Tax Authority, allegedly promised both senior and low-level employees to help them advance up the ranks. Further to that, they actually used their influence to promote these employees. Their promotion had, obviously, a great deal of value to the employees even beyond the material value. "In return, these same employees used their influence to promote other employees, in accordance with the instructions of Ben-Gur and Karshi, and in this way helped them accumulate even more power in the authority. Furthermore, some of the employees acted to advance the personal interests of Ben-Gur, Karshi and their friends vis-à-vis the Tax Authority. As head of the authority, Matza played a significant role in creating this state of affairs," the statement continued. As for Zaken, she allegedly used her power and influence as head of then-finance minister Olmert's bureau, and, later, as head of the Prime Minister's Bureau, to appoint Matza head of the authority and to make additional appointments on lower levels. Zaken allegedly warned Matza that unless he made the appointments her brother Karshi wanted, she would prevent him from meeting with Olmert. The Justice Ministry statement included the names of the eight suspects in the affair and the main charges against each. • Shula Zaken - fraud and breach of faith • Jacky Matza - accepting bribes, assistance in giving bribes, several counts of breach of faith • Shmuel Boberov, deputy director-general of the Tax Authority in charge of manpower - accepting bribes and several counts of breach of faith • Gidi Ben-Zacai, deputy director-general of the Tax Authority in charge of professional matters - accepting bribes • Kobi Ben-Gur - bribery of Matza and other Tax Authority employees • Yoram Karshi - bribery of Matza and other Tax Authority employees • Yigal Sa'ar, Tax Authority representative in the US - accepting bribes and providing help in bribing other employees • Yossi Steinmetz, director of personal imports and car imports in customs - accepting bribes and several counts of breach of faith. Boberov, Ben-Zacai, Sa'ar and Steinmetz were accused of helping Ben-Gur and Karshi obtain illicit tax deductions. Sa'ar and Steinmetz were informed that they faced indictment a few months ago. The affair first became public on January 2, 2007, when spokesmen for the Justice Ministry and the Israel Police announced that the latter's National Fraud Unit had been conducting a secret investigation for a lengthy period of time. On the same day, 11 of the original 22 suspects were brought one-by-one to Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for remand hearing. Zaken was not jailed but placed under house arrest for 10 days. In July's announcement, the Justice Ministry spokesman pointed out that the evidence included many wiretapped conversations and added, "In this affair, in which the original suspicions emerged from wiretapped conversations, the vital importance of wiretappings has been made evident in the fight against crime in general and public corruption in particular."