(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decided Monday to file an indictment against former finance minister Avraham Hirchson on suspicion of fraud, theft and other crimes.
The indictment is conditional on the results of a hearing that Mazuz will hold for Hirchson, a Kadima MK, the Justice Ministry said.
The allegations concern the actions of Hirchson and other senior officials in the National Workers Federation (NWF) and the Nili nonprofit organization, which was owned by the NWF from 1998-2005. Hirchson was chairman of the union during most of those years.
On September 2, police submitted to Mazuz the evidence gathered during their investigation and recommended charging Hirchson with theft, theft by an authorized official, money laundering, and fraud and breach of faith.
Hirchson has denied the charges.
According to the police, Hirchson stole millions of shekels from the NWF and Nili and transferred the money to his private accounts. Police and state prosecutors estimate the amount of money in question to be NIS 14 million.
In an investigation headed by Dep.-Cmdr. Yoav Segilovich, Hirchson was interrogated five times, beginning in March. Police, however, were aware of an embezzlement scam in Nili as early as January 2. At the time, they did not suspect Hirchson of being in on the theft but thought he may have known about it and failed to report it to the police.
The initial suspects were Ovadia Cohen, head of Nili at the time; David Cohen, Ovadia Cohen's brother; and Yitzhak Ruso, former director-general of the NWF.
Within a few days of the initial investigation, police began to suspect that Hirchson was more deeply involved in the affair. The suspicions arose after police interrogated Ovadia Cohen and Ruso.
According to the Justice Ministry, Justice Ministry prosecutors were closely involved with the police investigation from the beginning, including a team of prosecutors from the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office, Mazuz and State Attorney Eran Shendar. As a result, it only took three weeks from the handover of the police evidence until Mazuz's decision to indict Hirchson pending the outcome of the hearing.
The Justice Ministry said the hearing will have to be conducted by Mazuz because Hirchson is an MK.
Should Mazuz decide to indict Hirchson following the hearing, the former finance minister will have one month to decide whether he wants to fight the move by seeking parliamentary immunity. Parliamentary immunity is not automatic. According to a recent law, MKs no longer enjoy immunity unless they ask for it and on condition that the Knesset House Committee and the plenum agree to grant it.