Olmert aide's trial put on hold

Zaken pleads not guilty

The trial of Rachel Rizby-Raz, former prime minister Ehud Olmert's travel coordinator and Diaspora affairs adviser, who was indicted for her alleged involvement in the Rishon Tours double-billing affair, was postponed by two weeks on Tuesday at the request of her lawyer. Attorney Asher Ohayon asked the Jerusalem District Court for a delay because he needed time to brush up on the details of the case, having been hired to represent Rizby-Raz only two weeks ago. Ohayon said he plans to attack the prosecution's charges, claiming his client was subject to injustice because she was singled out by the prosecution, while the travel agency's employees were merely called as witnesses. "The indictment shows that Rishon Tours employees were deeply involved throughout the whole process. It is unreasonable that due to the prosecution's tactical maneuverings it is Rachel, the small cog who did nothing intentionally, who has to pay the price while Rishon Tours workers come to sit here with their legs crossed as prosecution witnesses," said Ohayon. Ohayon also claimed that the charged sheet lacked details that could implicate his client. "The document is superficial and doesn't detail either the methods or the precise charges against Rizby-Raz," said Ohayon. Australian-Israeli Rizby-Raz is charged with fraud, obtaining something by deceit, breach of trust, and falsifying corporate documents. The 20-page indictment cites 15 cases where Olmert, his office manager, Shula Zaken, and Rizby-Raz presented false information to organizations that funded Olmert's travel expenses between the years 2002-2006, while he was mayor of Jerusalem and a minister in the Likud government. Olmert has been accused of illegally double- and in some cases triple-billing charities and government ministries for the same flights, sending them false receipts for travel expenses, and using the excess to pay for personal family travel for his wife and children. Rizby-Raz allegedly helped fraudulently obtain $92,164 from the state and the various groups that sent Olmert abroad, funds that were kept in a special account in Olmert's name at Rishon Tours. Meanwhile, Olmert's office manager Shula Zaken also appeared in court on Tuesday, where she pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her in the Israel Tax Authority affair. Zaken is suspected of using her close ties with Olmert to help her brother, Yoram Karshi obtain influence within the tax authority, which he then exploit for his personal benefit. In July, Zaken was charged with fraud and breach of trust. Zaken's lawyer, Micha Fetman, said that Zaken did not act on behalf of her brother and that all her actions were completely professional. The other seven suspects in the case have been indicted in Central District Court on harsher charges.