(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz has authorized a police investigation of Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson in connection with a fraud scheme that allegedly occurred when he was head of the National Labor Federation (NLF), Yediot Aharonot reported on Monday.
The investigation has been handed over from the police's Fraud Unit to the Economic Division. Hirchson is likely to be investigated in the coming days by Lt.-Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich on suspicion of fraud, theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The affair began in 2003, when the director of the Nili Foundation, Ovadia Cohen, allegedly told Hirchson that he had taken NIS 5.6 million from the foundation in order to cover black market loans his brother had taken after a gambling entanglement.
Hirchson fired Cohen, but according to the State Comptroller, he did not notify the police of the embezzlement. Only in 2005, when an accountant's audit revealed that the money was missing, were the police and State Comptroller brought into the picture.
If the minister denies the allegations, he is expected to be confronted along with Cohen.
Hirchson's office responded to the reports, saying, "If the minister is summoned to an investigation, he would be more than happy to give his full version of the story," Army Radio said.
"The minister has nothing to hide from Israel's citizens - he trusts the honest actions of the law enforcement authorities," said the ministry.