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Former finance minister Hirschson freed from jail
By YONAH JEREMY BOB, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
16/01/2013
After serving 3.5 years of 5.5 year sentence on embezzlement charges, former Kadima minister released from Hermon Prison.
 
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 embezzlement.

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.

A parole board decided last month to commute Hirchson’s sentence due to good behavior.

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 illegality.”

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 Hirchson’s version.

The Supreme Court said that his explanation was in contradiction not only with financial realities, but also with reasonable common sense.

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.

Hirchson’s was one of a series of unrelated major criminal cases that enveloped many top officials in Kadima over a short period, including Tzachi Hanegbi and Olmert.

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.
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