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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Shula Zaken’

Former PM Ehud Olmert Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Tuesday morning to serve six years in prison. The judge also imposed a fine of NIS 1 million ($289,000.)  He ordered authorities to seize NIS 500,000 in funds the former prime minister has collected from various sources, including numerous speaking engagements in the United States.

Olmert was ordered to begin serving his prison sentence on September 1, pending appeal.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen handed down the sentence in what has become known as the famed “Holyland trial” after Olmert was convicted on two charges of bribery.

The former prime minister was convicted of taking bribes from contractors who built the Holyland residential complex near the Malha Mall in Jerusalem.

The rezoning and other “adjustments” that came in exchange for bribes continued through the 1990s and into the next decade. These were the years in which Olmert served as mayor of the capital city and minister of industry, trade and infrastructure. Both were pivotal posts from which to smooth the way for the developers of the Holyland project.

Olmert was also recently questioned on suspicion of witness tampering and obstruction of justice, according to Israel’s Channel 2 television. The allegations are based on recordings given to police by former Olmert aide Shula Zaken, his closest aide, also convicted in the wide-ranging Holyland scandal. Zaken gave police the recordings as part of her plea bargain with the prosecution.

The Holyland trial has dragged on for years, tainting Olmert’s term as prime minister and shadowing the country’s years beyond while bringing down numerous aides and colleagues.

Before pronouncing sentence, the judge pointed out that Olmert is an “intelligent, brilliant people person” and called him an “avid Zionist.” He praised him for donating to bereaved families and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.

But he then sharply reprimanded the former state leader, saying “The crime of bribery pollutes public service, destroys governments…” and called it “one of the worst crimes.”

Rosen said Olmert was guilty of moral turpitude — a term that means the ex-politican will be forced to wait at least seven years before re-entering the field. The judge added that those who take bribes are equivalent to “traitors” in their betrayal of the public trust.

To punish that betrayal, the judge revoked the 10 percent of Olmert’s mayoral pension.

Olmert has been convicted previously charges of corruption. In 2012, he was pronounced guilty of taking bribes in a Jerusalem case.

That trial earned the former mayor and subsequent minister and prime minister a light sentence of community service only. The judge in the case said in his decision that Olmert’s state leadership as prime minister had afforded him the right to leniency.

Not so today, however.  Judge Rosen said in his decision that the higher the post of the public servant, the harsher the punishment for bribery should be.

“Those who belong to the social and economic elite of the nation should not be held to the same standard as those in common society,” Rosen said. He added in explanation that his hands were tied by law in meting out the punishment, and that he was enjoined by those legal guidelines to set a minimum sentence without discretion.

Olmert issued a statement prior to sentencing saying that he was innocent and protesting an expected sentence that included prison time.

“This is a sad day on which a severe and unjust verdict is to be handed down to an innocent man,” Olmert said in his statement.

He has 45 days to appeal in Supreme Court – which he plans to do,, said Olmert spokesperson Amir Dan. He added that he hopes “the real picture will emerge and the verdict will change completely.”

To the eternal shame of the State of Israel, this is the first time in the history of the nation that a prime minister has been convicted of a felony and sent to prison. Likewise, former president Moshe Katsav is currently serving time in prison for having raped and sexually assaulted his female employees.

Olmert will appeal the conviction and sentence in the Supreme Court, spokesperson Amir Dan said. His attorney Eli Zohar is expected to file a request for a stay of sentence in the meantime.

Smile, Ehud – You’re Convicted!

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

We’re all acquainted with the phrases “mitzvah goreres mitzvah” – one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah – and “aveirah goreres aveirah” – one sin leads to another sin. Reflecting on the saga of convicted criminal Ehud Olmert, the phrase that comes to mind is “one lie leads to another lie.”

My recollection of Olmert dates back to 1988, when, as a member of Knesset, he was my guest, live from Israel, on a radio program I presented with radio icon Barry Farber on WMCA in New York. The program was aired prior to the 1988 Israeli elections. The Knesset had just passed a new anti-racist law in order to bar MK Rabbi Meir Kahane as a candidate for re-election.

Reb Meir naturally appealed this decision, and the appeal soon reached the high court for a final verdict.

On the day of final judgment, I used my press card to enter the courtroom and witness this historic moment.

To my shock, the lawyer for the prosecution was none other than Ehud Olmert.

Everyone stood as the panel of judges entered the chamber and took their seats.

The judge in the center lifted his gavel and with a bang announced, “Overruled!” Kahane’s appeal had been dismissed.

The judges rose and left the courtroom. Kahane’s entourage left singing and angrily shouting, and someone lifted Reb Meir on his shoulders.

A moment later, there were only two people left in the courtroom: Attorney Olmert and me. Olmert remained standing, with a smile – or smirk – on his lips, his eyes gazing off into the near future when he expected to be rewarded with a ministry in the newly elected government for his successful efforts against Kahane.

Olmert had essentially lied, portraying a faithful and devoted Jew as a potential Khomeini or even Hitler. He had obviously read Kahane’s writings and highlighted any statements that, if taken out of context, could deceive the court.

I stood and approached him and firmly asked, “You’re smiling, huh? You’re smiling?”

I then pointed to his lips and said, “One day you’ll regret this smile.”

I turned and left, slamming the door.

Two years later, Meir Kahane was assassinated.

Eventually Olmert became mayor of Jerusalem, while Kahane’s Kach movement was outlawed as a terrorist organization.

As mayor, Olmert refused to allow the annual yahrzeit commemoration for Kahane at the Ulam David catering hall, stationing police at the door and on the block.

Then the Second Intifada broke out, and buses and restaurants all over Jerusalem were being blown up by suicide bombers, just as Kahane had predicted when he’d asked, “Do you want Kahane or do you want Arafat?”

After each tragic suicide blast the mayor would speak to the people on camera.

Dov Shurin would always arrive and stand directly behind him.

And as Olmert would began to speak to the media I would shout, “Kahane was right, Olmert, and you know it better than anyone because you were the lawyer against Kahane and you read his books!”

By then the police would be schlepping me away.

I did this over and over again. You could say, using the Hebrew, that I was rodef (hounding) the man. Until one day, after yet another terrorist incident, as Olmert awaited the cameras, I whispered to him, “You want me to stop this redifa? At least allow the yahrzeit commemoration for Kahane, an assassinated former Knesset member!”

A month later, on the 18th day of the Hebrew month Marcheshvan, Olmert finally allowed the gathering at Ulam David.

Soon afterward, Olmert re-entered the Knesset to become Sharon’s right-hand man as they invented the lie called hitnatkut (disengagement) that resulted in the expulsion of more than 8,000 Jews from Gush Katif.

Expect Hell’s Fury as Scorned Aide Turns State Witness Against Olmert

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Shula Zaken’s career and her entire life have been intertwined with the life and career of top-level attorney, Likud “prince” (meaning his family belonged to the original, Jabotinsky-inspired Revisionist movement), Jerusalem mayor, government minister and finally prime minister Ebhud Olmert. Zaken was Olmert’s gatekeeper, and as such was directly involved in the complex and quite unappealing corruption quagmire her boss has been fighting in several court rooms over the past seven years.

This week, it appears that Zaken has agreed to become a state witness against her former boss, in exchange for reducing her sentence to one year in jail.

Until that crucial turn of events, the former prime minister had not escaped the long list of charges against him unscathed, he sustained an injury, in the form of a single conviction in one out of three separate cases, on breach of trust, for which he received one year’s probation and a $20 thousand fine. The last remaining case, regarding his role in the Holyland construction project—he was accused of accepting millions in bribes, while serving as Jerusalem’s mayor—was expected to be another squeaker for him. The prosecution’s key witness did not perform well at all, hard evidence was not offered, a walk in the park for Olmert.

Olmert might still beat this one, but a walk in the park it won’t be.

On Tuesday, Zaken went public on her Facebook page: “It’s no secret that in the last few days my heart’s been broken and what little joy I still had has also been almost extinguished. Until you came, dear people, family members, friends and just people – with blessings and support that I felt came from the heart. And those strengthened my faith, resurrected my joy of life, and this way I wish to thank you and bless each and every one of you that the Holy One Blessed Be His name fulfill all your wishes to a good end with health, happiness, pleasure, a good livelihood and, most important, joy in your hearts and a permanent smile on your faces.”

Convicted embezzlers who find God usually go a little overboard—I’m particularly leery of the permanent smile thing. I’m sure the prosecutors, should they accept her plea deal, will advise against it while on the stand. Could be off putting to the judges.

A week ago, Zaken reportedly told friends that she was feeling humiliated and was considering sharing with the authorities some of the vast information in her possession.

“If I open my mouth, forget it, Olmert will be sitting in jail,” she said to her friends. “I never said that he was corrupt, until he came up and said I was corrupt. I will talk about everything I have, amybe a few things that aren’t known yet.”

“After all,” Zaken emphasized, “I never did anything without instructions from him. Unlike him, I kept the covenant and the friendship until the very last minute.”

A few weeks ago, on a Friday, Zaken and Olmert happened into the same social event, and she told him, for all the world to hear: “You sold me out!”

Then, as a crowd was gathering, she shot: “You say I’m corrupt? I say that everything I did – I learned from you.”

Since, at one point, Olmert’s attorney Roy Blecher, accused Zaken of lying, it was becoming clear that the former PM was going to use Zaken as his fall guy—for everything. Zaken is now reacting like the proverbial woman scorned, complete with hell fury and the works.

“I lay down on the fence for him,” she said tearfully to her friends, citing the IDF combat method of going over a barbed wire fence – one guy throws himself on it and the rest step on his body. “I kept silent during the interrogations, I accepted responsibility, but there’s a limit to everything.”

Olmert Acquitted Of Major Charges

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

JERUSALEM – A panel of three Jerusalem regional court judges acquitted former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday of all corruption charges in the Rishon Tours and Moshe Talansky matters. The judges, though, found him guilty of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair, which took place during Olmert’s tenure as minister of industry, trade and labor nearly a decade ago.

The state prosecutor had charged Olmert with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, double billing, tax evasion and accepting bribes in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs nearly four years ago. During the course of the long legal battle, Talansky, a Long Island financier who co-founded the New Jerusalem Fund with Olmert, alleged in court that Olmert requested cash for various purposes. If the court had rendered a guilty verdict on the fraud charges, each charge would have carried a minimum jail term of three years. The breach of trust guilty verdict does not carry an automatic jail sentence, as the penalty is determined by judicial discretion.

Despite Olmert’s acquittals, the judges declared that the former prime minister’s former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, was guilty of two counts of fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case. Her conviction, which will almost certainly be challenged by her legal team, carries a minimum prison term of three years.

A cadre of legal experts and media commentators expressed surprise at the verdict on Olmert, especially in the Rishon Tours double-billing case whereby several witnesses maintained that both Olmert and Zaken were aware of double billing major Jewish organizations – and even orchestrated the action.

After the verdicts were handed down, the legal experts publicly questioned how Zaken, who was in constant daily contact with Olmert throughout most of his political career and updated him on all matters, could be found guilty while Olmert could emerge virtually unscathed.

Other legal pundits are arguing that Zaken is taking the fall for Olmert, despite the fact that she was allegedly offered immunity from prosecution had she turned state’s witness against her former boss. MK Dalia Itzik, a former political ally of Olmert’s during his tenure as prime minister and head of the Kadima Party, blasted State Attorney Moshe Lador. “This is one of the most severe legal earthquakes to ever hit Israel. It’s difficult to understand how supposedly rock-solid cases, which forced Olmert from office, collapsed. It’s absurd,” she said.

While expressing dismay with Zaken’s conviction, Olmert was ecstatic with his not guilty verdict on the corruption charges. “I knew I would be vindicated. There was no corruption or envelopes with money,” he told a horde of Israeli and foreign reporters at the Jerusalem courthouse. “This won’t be the last time you will be hearing from me.”

Olmert and Zaken’s legal battles, however, are far from over. Tuesday’s legal drama comes at the same time that Olmert, Zaken and former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski are being accused by the state prosecution’s main witness, a controversial businessman with a checkered reputation, as being central players in the so-called Holyland Affair. The Holyland trial is expected to last several months, with a verdict not expected until either later this year or early next year.

Olmert Acquitted on Most Charges, Convicted on Breach of Trust

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has won a surprise victory on Tuesday morning, as a panel of three district court judges acquitted him of most of the counts against him, in four cases that were associated with his name. He was only convicted of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair.

This makes Olmert the first Israeli Prime Minister ever to be convicted of a criminal offense.

Sentencing will take place on September 5.

In the Rishon Tours affair Olmert and his former chief of staff Shula Zaken were accused of instituting a fraud scheme that allowed him to receive extra funding for official trips abroad, and apply the surplus funds to private family trips. Olmert was acquitted of the charge in this case, but Zaken has been convicted of fraud and of breach of trust.

“The evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of the collection of excess funds and their use,” the judges ruled. “His overt behavior did not appear consistent with the method of deliberate fraud that is alleged in the indictment. The intent to finance private trips through surplus funds was not proven.”

The second indictment dealt with Talansky and the Investment Center affairs, which are, in effect, one and the same. Olmert was accused of breach of trust, for having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, sometimes in envelopes, from Morris Talansky, and in doing so deviated from the rules of etiquette as government minister. The cash was hidden in a safe belonging to attorney Uri Messer, then Olmert’s partner and close friend.

At the same time, the prosecution alleges that Olmert had a conflict of interests when he advocated for for Talansky’s business, and that when he was Minister of Industry he favored Messer’s clients, also in a serious conflict of interests.

In addition, Olmert was acquitted of defrauding and deceiving the State Comptroller regarding the value of his pen collection and money he received from businessman Joe Elmaliach.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/olmert-acquitted-on-most-charges-convicted-on-breach-of-trust/2012/07/10/

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