Police: Zaken passed NIS 1m. in bribes

Monies reportedly transferred to Olmert; ex-aide released to house arrest.

Zaken in court 311 (photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
Zaken in court 311
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
A million shekels in bribes was passed on to former prime minister Ehud Olmert by his ex-aide Shula Zaken, police said on Sunday during a remand hearing held for Zaken at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
Zaken allegedly took hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes for herself from property developers backing the Holyland real estate development in Jerusalem, as well as jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels and a painting worth approximately NIS 5,000, the police representative to court said.
In exchange, police think, Zaken worked to ensure that businessmen such as Hillel Charni, suspected of paying tens of millions of shekels in bribes, had an “open door” to Olmert as Jerusalem mayor and minister of trade, industry and labor, resulting in the approval of an enlarged Holyland project and huge profits for its developers.
The new allegations regarding Zaken came as the National Fraud Unit released her to 10 days’ house arrest. Zaken posted NIS 300,000 bail, and is forbidden to leave the country for six months. She may contact only her attorney and family members.
During the remand hearing, the police representative to the court, Ch.-Supt. Assaf Valpish, said Zaken also acted as an intermediary on behalf of former Jerusalem Municipal engineer Uri Sheetrit, who is suspected of dropping his initial opposition to the Holyland project and becoming a supporter of it after receiving very large bribes.
Zaken has faced intense questioning since being arrested last Monday afternoon after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport from Los Angeles. She has denied all charges against her, saying she merely scheduled appointments between individuals suspected of passing on bribes to Olmert.
But police suspect she acted as a “main pipeline” for bribes destined for Olmert and wielded “significant and decisive influence on procedures in the Jerusalem Municipality and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry,” according to statements made by police in court last week.
Zaken is also suspected of “conspiring” with former Olmert associate attorney Uri Messer – who was arrested this month in connection with the Holyland investigation – to launder the funds “in sophisticated ways” by producing fictitious receipts to disguise the transfer of bribes.
Meanwhile, property developer Meir Rabin, who has spent nearly a month in custody on suspicion of acting as main bribe intermediary in the Holyland affair and other alleged cases of bribery, withdrew an appeal against an extension of his custody at the Petah Tikva District Court on Sunday, after his attorneys learned that he would likely be released to house arrest on Monday. Should police seek a further extension, special approval from the attorney-general would be required.
Before the appeal was withdrawn, Valpish told the court that police hadnot completed its questioning of Rabin, adding that the suspect wasinvolved in several bribery affairs. He denied claims by Rabin’sattorneys that he was being kept behind bars in order to pressure himto turn state’s witness.
Last week, police revealed that Rabin was suspected of 18 separatebribery offenses in the Holyland affair, developments by the ZeraCompany and the Tzuk Menara construction plan, and a fourthinvestigation centering on former Israel Lands Administration Ya’acovEfrati, who allegedly received NIS 1.5 million in bribes from formerBank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner in order to ensure that industrialland he owned in Atlit could be converted into profitable real estatedevelopments.