‘My brother used me,’ Zaken says in Tax Authority trial

Former PM Ehud Olmert’s close aide, broke down in tears on the witness stand as she testified on behalf of the state against.

Zaken in court 311 (photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
Zaken in court 311
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
Shula Zaken, former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s close aide, broke down in tears on the witness stand as she testified Wednesday on behalf of the state against her brother, Yoram Karshi, in the Tax Authority corruption scandal.
Both Zaken and Karshi are among eight suspects who have been charged in the affair. However, Zaken’s trial will be held in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court while the trial of the other seven is already under way in the Central District Court in Petah Tikva.
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Karshi and another businessman, Kobi Ben-Gur, were charged with seeking to install Jackie Matza as head of the Tax Authority after his predecessor, Eitan Rub, resigned.
To do so, they arranged for Matza to meet with Zaken, whose boss, Olmert, served as finance minister at the time and was due to recommend a candidate to replace Rub.
Zaken met with Matza and Karshi entered the room during the meeting. Afterwards, Zaken also met with the two other candidates.
However, when Matza was picked by Olmert for the job, the new Tax Authority head was under the impression that Zaken had intervened with Olmert on his behalf, and that he therefore had a debt to her and Karshi.
On another occasion, Karshi and Matza clashed over who should be appointed to one of the senior positions in the authority. Matza needed Olmert’s approval for the appointment and asked Zaken to schedule a meeting with the minister to discuss the matter.
Zaken, according to the indictment, refused to schedule the meeting and instructed Matza to discuss the matter with Karshi instead, even though Karshi was a private businessman and had no position in the Tax Authority.
In court on Wednesday, Zaken charged that her brother had taken advantage of her close relationship with him and exploited it by claiming that he had engineered Matza’s appointment and that Zaken had helped him do so.
During the hearing, the prosecutor, Michal Rozen-Ozer, asked Zaken to describe her relationship with her brother today. Zaken began to cry.
“I have five siblings,” she told the court. “He is the one I love the most… Today, our relationship is not the same as it was.
“I shared everything with my brother,” she told the court. “In my personal life as well. I told him about everything I had to deal with in my life. Whatever I achieved, I achieved with my bare hands. It was important for me to tell my brother these things, to share them with him and to ask his advice. Today, when I have to come to this court and be confronted with all the evidence, my heart breaks. Being here is very hard for me.
“Because I paid such a heavy price. I sat at home [in house arrest] for an entire year, for no reason. I lost my innocence as a result of this affair.”
Zaken charged that her brother had used her.
“When I felt I was saying such innocent things, I didn’t think for a minute that my brother wanted to and intended to harm me,” she said.
Zaken said she had always been tight-lipped about her work.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I’m like a locked safe. I don’t share anything. No one can harm my work, my boss.”
She also said there was no way she could have influenced Olmert’s decision about who should be the new head of the Tax Authority.
“Anyone who knows my boss, knows that he decides by himself,” she said. “I can express an opinion, but he decides on his own.”
Zaken added that Olmert had not given her any authority in this matter.
Then why, asked Rozen-Ozer, did she meet the three candidates in the first place? Zaken had told police during her interrogation that she had done so as a “demonstration of power.”
But in court, she said she had met them out of curiosity. This was just at the time that Olmert had become finance minister and she said she wanted to get to know the candidates that had been talked about so much.
“I also wanted to relieve the pressure on them,” she continued.
“If I can slap them on the shoulder, give them a hug and a good word, I do it. It doesn’t go in some other direction whereby someone might understand that if I make him feel good, he will interpret it as meaning that he’ll get a positive answer from the minister.
“Today, I know that I have to be more careful, but I am still certain and still know that I did not do anything wrong.”