The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday sentenced Shula Zaken, bureau chief of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, to four months of community service for fraud and breach of trust in a Tax Authority bribery scandal.
The court ruled that during 2006-2007 she used her position as then finance minister Olmert’s bureau chief in order to promote the business interests of her brother, Yoram Karshi. Karshi was sentenced in 2011 to seven months in prison for breach of trust, bribery, and soliciting bribes.
Also in 2011, former Tax Authority head Jackie Matza was sentenced to a year in prison for similar crimes, after signing a plea bargain to testify against Karshi and others in return for a reduced sentence.
The investigations found that Matza involved Karahi in Tax Authority appointments and that they and Zaken facilitated Matza’s appointment as Tax Authority director.
The prosecutor sought jail time for Zaken, but judge Haim Liran ruled that although she had “breached the public’s trust,” in the end she was only a secretary committing a first-time offense.
In explaining his conviction earlier this year, Liran said that Zaken’s version of the story and the explanations she provided in her testimony were “inconsistent with common sense.”
After the verdict was handed down, the prosecution immediately announced it would appeal Zaken’s sentence. A representative, attorney Yoseph Alon, said that it was a classic case of breach of trust and imprisonment was justified.
“If this is the face of the State of Israel – I am ashamed,” Zaken said of the prosecutor’s request for jail time.
Zaken also faces prosecution in other cases related to Olmert’s scandal-filled terms in public office. She is currently on trial in Jerusalem, along with the former prime minister, for her involvement in the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. She also has been indicted in connection with the Holyland real estate scandal.
In the Talansky affair, Olmert is suspected of bribery or campaign finance irregularities while serving as mayor of Jerusalem, with American businessman Morris Talansky being one of the witnesses called against him. In the Rishon Tours affair, the company’s CEO, Emanuel Baumwolspiner, is suspected of involvement in the double billing of Olmert’s travel expenses.
The Holyland real estate scandal implicated Olmert, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and former Israel Lands Administration director Yaakov Efrati on suspicion of bribery in advancing real estate ventures, most notably the Holyland housing project in southern Jerusalem.