Shula Zaken, for years a close aide of Ehud Olmert, is reportedly in the advanced stages of negotiations with the prosecution in the Holyland corruption case to broker a plea bargain. Under the arrangement Zaken, once considered a close friend and confidant of the former prime minister, would testify against him in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
Should an agreement be reached, Zaken is expected to give the prosecution evidence that would incriminate her former boss. However, it remains unclear whether it is too late in the legal proceedings for the deal to be signed.
“This is not in accordance with the normal criminal procedure,” Olmert’s attorney Eli Zohar said.
Various reports said Zaken would receive either community service or a 16-month sentence under the deal, or that charges against her would be dropped entirely. She had previously rejected a plea bargain offer for an 11-month sentence.
The Holyland affair, billed as Israel’s largest corruption scandal, revolves around a real estate development project in which dozens of Jerusalem city officials, including Olmert, are accused of accepting bribes. The Holyland initiative spawned an extensive Jerusalem building project whose developers allegedly were able to far exceed their original mandate by paying off officials.
Advocates for Zaken dismissed claims Tuesday that now-deceased state’s witness Shmuel Dachner had approached Zaken with bribes, instead insisting that Dachner attempted to bribe Olmert personally.
“Dachner was not in need of Zaken’s services, due to her lack of [political] power and the fact Dachner himself claimed that he paid bribes to Ehud Olmert — Zaken’s employer,” Zaken’s attorney Ofer Bartal said in a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court.
“After you bribe the person who has the authority, to bribe Zaken would just be a waste of money,” he continued.
Olmert was sentenced in September 2012 to a suspended yearlong jail term and a NIS 75,000 fine ($21,000), following his conviction for a separate, relatively minor breach of trust charge stemming from his time as a government minister, and was cleared in two other, major cases against him also unrelated to the Holyland affair.
According to allegations in the Holyland case, Dachner in 2004 given Zaken NIS 100,000 (about $28,000) in the form of five checks. The prosecution asserted that the checks were given to Zaken in order to persuade her to help kickstart a project for one of Dachner’s companies.
For her part, Zaken claimed that she had a personal relationship with Dachner and received gifts from him, but not bribes. Zaken’s defense also stated that three of the five checks received from Dachner were used to pay back debt from Olmert’s election campaign.
On Monday Zaken’s son Nadav launched a scathing Facebook attack on Olmert, saying the former prime minister had “sold out” his mother in order to save his own skin.
“I’m so curious to know if he who ‘does not notice anyone,’ he who ‘tramples’ others in order to apparently realize his future political ambitions, he who ‘betrayed and abandoned,’ will show his face tomorrow [in court],” Nadav Zaken wrote.
Olmert did not attend Tuesday’s court hearing.