Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s long-time top aide Shula Zaken will not be able to give last-minute testimony against him after a petition to let her speak out in court was rejected by the High Court of Justice on Tuesday.
The Movement for Quality Government, a nonprofit watchdog group, had appealed for Zaken to be accepted as a state’s witness against her former boss. The petition came after earlier this month Zaken reportedly told police that she knew Olmert was a crook.
The High Court said the petition was lacking in factual justification.
“The petition itself demonstrates that it is based on assumptions, estimates, speculation and other publications which are from the media,” summed up presiding Justice Yitzhak Amit. “The petitioner does not claim to know the contents of the announcement by Mrs. Zaken to the police, and thus did not explain its appeal.”
Olmert is “corrupt,” the long-time aide was quoted as having told police during questioning three weeks ago. She had voluntarily offered the testimony, which contradicts sworn evidence she has given over the years in several court cases.
Zaken said that Olmert had put money given to him by the American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky to private use — to buy suits, pens, cigars and overseas holidays — rather than for political campaign funds. She also said Olmert knew all the details of an alleged double billing scheme for his various trips abroad, under which more than one organization would fund a trip, allowing the former prime minister to accrue funds which he used to finance family flights and upgrades to first class.
Olmert was acquitted of those two allegations in 2012, and the state is currently appealing both verdicts.
Zaken’s legal team had been in talks with the prosecution for several weeks to work out a plea bargain that would have seen her turn state’s witness in a third case in which Olmert is accused of taking bribes to push through the Holyland project, a major residential development, as mayor of Jerusalem a decade ago.
However, the prosecution said at the time that Zaken’s offered testimony was not strong enough to justify a plea deal. The Justice Ministry said in a statement that the decision to decline her late-stage testimony was made both because the trial had already passed the stage when new testimony could normally be given and because Zaken’s offered testimony had no “outside documentation” to back it up.
A verdict in the Holyland case is due on March 31.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.