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(photo credit: Courtesy: John Rifkin)
Terming the investigation's findings "horrifying" and charging they reflected "the wanton behavior of those in power," former police Investigations and Intelligence Division chief Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi expressed guarded optimism Monday that former finance minister Avraham Hirchson would eventually be indicted and convicted.
Outlining the case against Hirchson, which includes allegations of theft and money laundering, Mizrahi said that the case was unsusually strong, partially due to the fact that although there were many possible "fronts" of investigation, the detectives focused on a number of major ones, forgoing other suspicions that would have involved lengthy cooperation with overseas counterparts.
This focus, which Mizrahi described as "smart," allowed detectives to build a case after less than a year of investigation. "In this case, it looks like the mountain really was a mountain, and not a molehill," said the veteran investigator and outspoken opponent of corrupt officials.
In addition, Mizrahi said, investigators received an unusual leg up against Hirchson in the form of damning testimonies offered against him by fellow suspects.
"I think they were fortunate to get people to talk to them without having to make state's witness agreements," he said. "[Former Hirchson employee and co-suspect] Ovadia Cohen just opened up to the detectives."
Yet another factor in what Mizrahi describes as the strength of the investigative file is the fact that the Tel Aviv District Attorney's office - and at times, even the State's Attorney's office - worked together with detectives throughout all stages of the investigation.
"They've had an opportunity to see the evidence. If there was a need to do any extra work to make the case trial-ready, detectives have already had the opportunity to do it. So now there's no reason to drag their feet," he noted.
According to Mizrahi, there was still a possibility that Hirchson's representatives can hammer out deals or plea bargains with the Attorney-General's Office, but added that it would be very hard to argue against the evidence as it stands.
"You can't debate the financial records," said Mizrahi, emphasizing that he believed that of all of the offenses, the money-laundering charge would prove to be the most serious - and difficult for Hirchson to fight.
Mizrahi, who during his tenure probed many top political leaders, said he believed corruption was endemic among Israel's political leadership, and that corrupt officials frequently received the support - rather than condemnation - of their colleagues.
"What kind of set of norms do we have, when someone who was even suspected of these offenses was allowed to stay in office as long as he did?" he asked.