Police advise charging Olmert for obstructing justice

Police advise charging Olmert for obstructing justice

Former prime minister suspected of trying to bribe his former bureau chief into keeping quiet or changing testimony

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, January 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, January 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Police on Thursday advised charging ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert and his defense counsel with obstruction of justice and attempting to coerce testimony for actions he allegedly took against his bureau chief, Shula Zaken.

The recommendation came at the end of two-month long special investigation, which found there was enough evidence to press charges. Police said they suspect Olmert and attorney Navot Tel Zion offered Zaken financial incentives not to sign a plea bargain with the state prosecution, which she eventually did, and earlier attempted to influence her court testimony regarding the various court cases against Olmert in his favor. According to Channel 2, Zaken is suspected of accepting hush money offered by Olmert.

According to a Ynet news report, Tel Zion strongly denied the potential charges against him.

Earlier this month Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes in the Holyland real estate scandal that saw nearly a dozen Jerusalem city officials, including former mayor Uri Lupolianksi, facing corruption charges.

The investigation into obstruction of justice began when Zaken, who was indicted in the Holyland affair, offered to strike a deal with prosecutors in which she would turn against her former boss in return for a lighter sentence. She also claimed she had recordings of Olmert trying to persuade her to not testify against him.

Shula Zaken, Ehud Olmert's former aide, at the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, March 31, 2013 (photo credit: Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Shula Zaken, Ehud Olmert’s former aide, at the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, March 31, 2013 (photo credit: Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Although the additional information that Zaken offered regarding the Holyland case was too late, as the trial itself had already finished, it was enough for police to launch a new investigation into Olmert and his attorney.

As a result of her testimony, Zaken, who was also indicted in the Holyland trial, received a relatively light sentence of 11 months in prison.

On Tuesday, the state prosecutor’s office, which is pursuing an appeal of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s acquittal in the so-called Talansky affair, announced that it wished to admit new evidence in the case.

In 2012 the Jerusalem District Court cleared the ex-politician of accepting undeclared contributions from American businessman Morris Talansky,

Citing recordings and other evidence supplied by Zaken, the prosecution asked the Supreme Court to allow it to present the new findings to the Jerusalem District Court.

The prosecution said the evidence showed Olmert had used the funds provided by Talansky for personal gain, proving conclusively that he had taken them as bribes.

The prosecution has also appealed Olmert’s acquittal in the Rishon Tours affair, in which he was cleared of holding a travel slush fund.

In a March 2014 hearing, during which it reluctantly agreed to the plea bargain with Zaken, the prosecution said the information on the tapes she had supplied, which dealt with Olmert’s involvement in the Holyland, Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, could be used to send Olmert to prison “for at least nine years.”

In the plea bargain, Zaken promised to testify against him not only in the Holyland real estate case in which he was sentenced to six years in prison, but also, if needed, in the two major corruption cases in which he was acquitted two years ago and which the state is in the process of appealing in the Supreme Court.

Zaken, who ran Olmert’s office both when he was mayor of Jerusalem and when he was prime minister, provided “significant” new evidence against Olmert, including recordings, documents and other material, to support allegations that he sought to obstruct justice in the Holyland affair — and, the prosecution said, possibly in the Talansky affair as well.

In conversations with state prosecutors earlier this year, Zaken was said to have alleged that Olmert put money given to him by American Jewish businessman Talansky to private use — to buy suits, pens, cigars and overseas holidays — rather than using it to fund his political campaigns.

She also reportedly said that, in the so-called Rishon Tours affair, Olmert knew all the details of an alleged double billing scheme for his various trips abroad. According to the allegations, more than one organization would sponsor the same trip, allowing the then-prime minister to accrue funds which he used to finance family flights and upgrades to first class.

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