Indictments served in Tax Authority case

Former Olmert aide Shula Zaken and seven others charged with counts of bribery, breach of trust.

shula zaken 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
shula zaken 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
An indictment filed Thursday by the state against former prime minister Ehud Olmert's bureau chief Shula Zaken and seven other suspects in the Tax Authority corruption affair reveals a spider's nest of intrigue, cronyism and favoritism. Aside from Zaken, the suspects in the case are former Tax Authority head Jackie Matza; Zaken's brother Yoram Karshi, a private businessman and member of the Jerusalem municipal council; businessman Ya'acov Ben-Gur; and senior Tax Authority employees Yigal Sa'ar, Shmuel Bobrov, Yoseph Steinmetz and Gideon Bar-Zakai. Zaken will be tried in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on charges of fraud and breach of trust. The other seven will be tried in the Central District Court on a host of charges that include accepting a bribe (Matza, Bobrov, Sa'ar, Steinmetz and Bar-Zakai) and fraud and breach of trust (Matza, Bobrov and Sa'ar). Karshi was charged with five counts of giving a bribe, while Ben-Gur was charged with four counts of giving a bribe and one count of assistance in giving a bribe. Matza was charged on one count of assistance in giving a bribe. According to the charge sheet, the Tax Authority affair began with the announcement by then-head Eitan Rob in October 2005 that he was resigning. Matza, who was serving as deputy director-general in charge of professional affairs, wanted to succeed Rob. He told Ben-Gur of his ambitions because he knew that the businessman was a close friend of Rob's and that he had connections in the Tax Authority. Ben-Gur promised to help. He also suggested that Matza meet Karshi as a prelude to a meeting with Zaken. At the time, Zaken's boss, Olmert, was serving as finance minister and was therefore authorized to propose the new Tax Authority head. Karshi set up the meeting with his sister. According to the indictment, "Ben-Gur and Karshi helped Matza advance his appointment as the head of the Tax Authority in order to make him obligated to them. They did this with the expectation that as head of the Tax Authority, Matza would use his position to act on their behalf and give them influence within the authority. Ben-Gur and Karshi wanted to obtain the kind of influence that would enable them primarily to advance the Tax Authority employees they wanted so that these employees would use their positions to help them." After Matza was appointed Tax Authority head on December 11, 2005, he carried out many of the orders given by Ben-Gur and Karshi. For one thing, he promoted Tax Authority employee Galit Simhon, who had "a very close personal relationship" with Ben-Gur, to be his personal adviser. Meanwhile, Karshi promised Sa'ar that he would get Matza to promote him to deputy director-general in charge of administration. The problem in this case was that Ben-Gur had promised the same position to Bobrov. Matza, for whatever reason, felt obliged in this case to Ben-Gur and turned Karshi down. However, in addition to the position of deputy director-general for administration, Matza had two other deputy director-general vacancies to fill. He asked Zaken to set up an appointment with Olmert to obtain his approval for the candidates, including Bobrov. However, Karshi, who was angry at Matza for disobeying his order, told Zaken to refuse to set up the appointment. He also told her that she must tell Matza that before he could meet Olmert, he must discuss the appointments with Karshi. Ben-Gur, Karshi and Matza held a "summit" meeting to discuss the impasse. They agreed that Bobrov would get the appointment and that Sa'ar would be "compensated" with another job. Later in the day, Sa'ar met with Matza and told him he wanted to be appointed as the Tax Authority representative in the US. Matza agreed. Furthermore, he, along with Karshi, Ben-Gur and Sa'ar, intervened to persuade some of the other candidates for the job to withdraw from the tender. The tender committee chose Sa'ar. "On the very same day, while on holiday in Eilat, Matza called Karshi on his own initiative [and] informed him of Sa'ar's appointment, as Karshi had promised Sa'ar," the indictment read. "All of this was done to demonstrate Matza's obligations toward Karshi." Four days later, Karshi called Sa'ar and asked him to help advance David Chen, a Tax Authority employee who was close to him. Even though Chen was not qualified for the job, Sa'ar agreed immediately. "No problem," he told Karshi, according to the indictment. "Whatever you say." Before leaving for the US, Sa'ar also gave Karshi a list of names of Tax Authority employees he thought would be prepared to take bribes. He also told him who he thought would be loyal to Karshi in return for favors. The indictment goes on to include several other cases in which Karshi or Ben-Gur (or both) intervened to promote those who they thought could help them in their businesses.