Court contends that Zaken asked for bribes on Olmert’s behalf

Prosecution finishes cross-examining former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief.

Shula Zaken 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Shula Zaken 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The prosecution finished cross-examining former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief Shula Zaken on Tuesday in the Holyland trial, with the court implying that she had asked for bribes on behalf of Olmert.
At the end of her questioning, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen asked her to explain an apparent discrepancy in her testimony.
Zaken admitted to receiving substantial funds, in one case a lump sum of NIS 350,000, expensive jewelry and other items from Shmuel Duchner, the main state witness who claimed that he was the front man for the Holyland project who bribed Olmert, Zaken and others.
But for most of the trial, Zaken maintained that even though Duchner had an interest in favorable treatment for his project by Olmert’s office during his term as mayor from the years 1993-1999, everything Duchner gave her was not a bribe, Olmert did not know about it and it was all “gifts” because she had a quasiromantic relationship with Duchner.
She maintained this line of defense even when she intended on using some of the funds from Duchner to cover Olmert’s post-election debts, saying that Olmert did not know about the money and that Duchner refused to give funds earmarked for Olmert’s debts, but told her she could do whatever she wanted with them.
But Tuesday she admitted that she had asked Duchner for funds to commission polling data relating to the redeployment from Gaza in 2005 on behalf of Olmert.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, she said that Duchner gave her the money not as a bribe, but because of her affection for her and because “he knew Olmert was important to me.”
The dramatic discrepancy capped three weeks of sensational back and forth between Zaken, the lawyers and the court, including a nervous break-down on the stand followed by her hospitalization.
Former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner started testifying following Zaken, on accusations that he bribed Duchner’s former aide Meir Rabin, a relative of Yaakov Efrati, then director of the Israel Lands Authority, to get favorable government treatment for Israel Salt Industries Ltd., of which he was chairman, including rezoning salt flats in Atlit and Eilat.
Dankner admitted paying Rabin to help him navigate the maze of dealing with public obstacles to Israel Salt Industries projects, but said that he wanted assistance to handle the issue in a legal manner, and flatly denied that the payments were bribes.
The former bank chairman added that if anyone “said the word bribe” to him “they would have been thrown out of my office.”
Only last week, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Dankner of fraud, breach of trust, violation of proper management of Bank Hapoalim and illegal receipt of funds and loans as part of a plea bargain agreement.
In concurrence with the agreement, Dankner agreed to pay a NIS 1 million penalty.
The conviction brought to an end a trial against a man who was once viewed as one of the most powerful businessmen in Israel, with influence on a range of national issues, but not to extricate him from the Holyland trial.
Dankner may still face jail time in another case in which his sentencing has yet to be set.