Former finance, communications and tourism minister Avraham Hirchson was
released from Hermon Prison in the eastern Lower Galilee on Wednesday after
serving three-and-a-half years of a five-and-a-half-year sentence for
Hirchson, finance minister under prime minister Ehud
Olmert, was convicted in 2009 by the Tel Aviv District Court of embezzling
millions of shekels from the Hahistadrut Haovdim Haleumit while he served as its
chairman in the late 1990s.
He was also convicted of theft, fraud, breach
of trust of a corporation, money laundering and other crimes.
board decided last month to commute Hirchson’s sentence due to good
Upon his release, Hirchson, 71, who was met by his son, said
that he gives “thanks to the Creator of the World every day for getting me out
healthy so that I may hug my family.”
On an appeal to the Supreme Court
in 2011, which Hirchson lost, the court reportedly summarized his conduct
stating that “the cash envelopes raised a black flag of
Hirchson was convicted of having a systematic plan for
taking cash from the union in envelopes on a regular basis, without reporting
the cash he was taking.
The former finance minister had argued that the
sentence he received was not proportionate to sentences given to other
defendants in the affair.
He had tried to characterize the funds he took
as being money due to him, and said his wrongdoing was limited to taking funds
in excess of what he was permitted to take from the union as a Knesset member
and to his failure to report taking the money.
Neither the lower court
nor the Supreme Court accepted his explanation, finding his method of taking the
funds as evidence that he was stealing from the union and as disproving
The Supreme Court said that his explanation was in
contradiction not only with financial realities, but also with reasonable common
In one memorable incident, Hirchson had been arrested in 2007 at
Ben-Gurion Airport holding a suitcase with $250,000 in cash on return from a
trip to Poland to commemorate the Holocaust in the March of the Living, which he
initiated in 1987.
Shortly thereafter, he stepped down from his post with
the union to defend the criminal proceedings against him.
one of a series of unrelated major criminal cases that enveloped many top
officials in Kadima over a short period, including Tzachi Hanegbi and
Hirchson’s son Barak will soon be sentenced for drunk driving and
causing serious bodily harm to an ex-girlfriend when he crashed his motorcycle
on which she was a passenger.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.