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Sunday, May 04, 2008 

An indictment against Hirchson

The former finance minister is now getting a little comeuppance for his crimes:
Former finance minister Avraham Hirchson will be indicted on charges including
embezzlement, theft, falsifying corporation documents, fraud and money laundering, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced Sunday.

Mazuz informed a Hirchson representative and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik of the indictment, which is set to be served in 30 days in the Tel Aviv District Court.

Within this time, the former finance minister is permitted to submit a request for immunity.

The Kadima MK is suspected of pocketing funds from the National Workers' Union during the time that he served as its head. Hirchson left his cabinet post in July 2007 - but not his Knesset seat - after a protracted deliberation in which he first suspended himself.

Following the announcement of the indictment, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) said that it was "frightening and shocking for a man who served as finance minister as well as in a number of senior roles to be charged with such serious crimes."

Paz-Pines said the allegations first and foremost soiled the Kadima Party and the government, but were also a fatal blow to the Knesset.

"I therefore call on him to quit the Knesset, despite the fact that he doesn't have a legal obligation to do so, and to fight for his innocence in court not as an MK," said the Labor MK.

Hirchson and 10 others are suspected of involvement in the alleged embezzlement of millions of shekels from the National Workers Federation and its subsidiary, Nili.

According to the draft indictment prepared by the state prosecution last October, during 1998 Hirchson allegedly conspired, together with Ovadia Cohen, head of the National Workers Federation's finance department, and chief accountant Gideon Ben-Tzur to embezzle large sums of money from the federation and from Nili, which operated a network of kindergartens and informal courses and was owned by the federation.

During 2000 or thereabouts, another suspect, National Workers Federation then-director-general Yitzhak Ruso, allegedly joined the conspiracy and Cohen supposedly informed Nili accountant Amazia Boner that some of the money was to go to Hirchson. Hirchson allegedly received money primarily between 2000 and 2003 and then from April 2004 until 2005.

Between 2000 and 2003, Cohen, Ben-Tzur and Boner allegedly signed hundreds of checks worth millions of shekels from the bank accounts of the National Workers Federation and Nili. They are suspected of giving the checks to two emissaries, identified as David Cohen and Shlomo Aruas, who then allegedly cashed the checks. During those years, Aruas withdrew NIS 5.1 million from the banks, while Cohen withdrew NIS 860,000, according to the charges.

In 2000, Hirchson and Cohen allegedly agreed that Hirchson would receive NIS 25,000 a month for 'expenses.' Until 2003, the money was delivered each month in envelopes and given to a woman who worked in Hirchson's home, or handed directly to Hirchson, according to the draft.

Hirchson is also suspected of receiving grants of NIS 10,000 to NIS 30,000 twice a year during holiday seasons, and was also given NIS 2,000-3,000 for each trip he took abroad, at a time when he made more than 50 trips a year.

After Cohen left the federation, Hirchson continued to receive NIS 25,000 each month from Nili, and when Ben-Tzur's health deteriorated, another employee, Ronit Garti, continued to transfer the money, according to the proposed charges.

Beginning in April 2004, Ruso allegedly transferred between NIS 15,000 and NIS 35,000 to Hirchson. After Hirchson was appointed to the cabinet, Ruso decreased the payments to NIS 5,000 and these were finally stopped in April 2005, the document continues.

Hirchson allegedly received expenses from the National Workers Federation while he was an MK and sometimes while he was a minister, despite the restrictions on lawmakers receiving outside income. For example, between 1999 and 2004, he was paid back for more than 100 meals that he ate at the most expensive restaurants, according to the document. He chalked up the highest bill at a restaurant called Well Done. It came to NIS 7,547 for one meal.

Hirchson was also accused of money-laundering almost half of the NIS 2.5m. he is suspecting of embezzling.
This is very disturbing news and revelations. He should never be allowed to work as a politician again.

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