Prosecution claims Hirchson embezzled NIS 2.5m.

Draft indictment against former finance minister and 10 other suspects involved in alleged embezzlement of millions of shekels.

By DAN IZENBERG
October 17, 2007 23:39
2 minute read.
hirchson podium 88 298

hirchson podium 88 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The draft indictment that the state prosecution has prepared against former finance minister Avraham Hirchson and 10 other suspects involved in the alleged embezzlement of millions of shekels from the National Workers Federation and its subsidiary, Nili, was published on Wednesday. The state prosecution announced on Tuesday that it had presented a copy of the draft to Hirchson so that his lawyers could prepare for the hearing to be held before the Tel Aviv district attorney for criminal affairs. According to the draft, during 1998 Hirchson conspired, together with Ovadia Cohen, head of the National Workers Federation's finance department, and chief accountant Gideon Ben-Tzur to embezzle large sums of money from the federation and from Nili, which operated a network of kindergartens and informal courses and was owned by the federation. During 2000 or thereabouts, another suspect, National Workers Federation then-director-general Yitzhak Ruso, allegedly joined the conspiracy and Cohen supposedly informed Nili accountant Amazia Boner that some of the money was to go to Hirchson. Hirchson allegedly received money primarily between 2000 and 2003 and then from April 2004 until 2005. Between 2000 and 2003, Cohen, Ben-Tzur and Boner signed hundreds of checks worth millions of shekels from the bank accounts of the National Workers Federation and Nili. They gave the checks to two emissaries, identified as David Cohen and Shlomo Aruas, who then cashed the checks, according to the draft indictment. During those years, Aruas withdrew NIS 5.1 million from the banks, while Cohen withdrew NIS 860,000, the charges read. In 2000, Hirchson and Cohen allegedly agreed that Hirchson would receive NIS 25,000 a month for "expenses." Until 2003, the money was delivered each month in envelopes and given to a woman who worked in Hirchson's home, or handed directly to Hirchson, according to the draft. Hirchson also received grants of NIS 10,000 to NIS 30,000 twice a year during holiday seasons, and was also given NIS 2,000-3,000 for each trip he took abroad, at a time when he made more than 50 trips a year, according to the document. After Cohen left the federation, Hirchson continued to receive NIS 25,000 each month from Nili, and when Ben-Tzur's health deteriorated, another employee, Ronit Garti, continued to transfer the money, according to the proposed charges. Beginning in April 2004, Ruso allegedly transferred between NIS 15,000 and NIS 35,000 to Hirchson. After Hirchson was appointed to the cabinet, Ruso decreased the payments to NIS 5,000 and these were finally stopped in April 2005, the document continues. According to the draft indictment, Hirchson received expenses from the National Workers Federation while he was an MK and sometimes while he was a minister, despite the restrictions on lawmakers receiving outside income. For example, between 1999 and 2004, he was paid back for more than 100 meals that he ate at the most expensive restaurants, according to the document. He chalked up the highest bill at a restaurant called Well Done. It came to NIS 7,547 for one meal. Hirchson was also accused of money-laundering almost half of the NIS 2.5m. he is suspecting of embezzling. "Hirchson knew and understood that the money he received in cash and without documentation was embezzled from the National Workers Federation and Nili," the prosecutors wrote. "He knew and understood that to conceal the theft and fraud, [he had to commit] money-laundering acts and register false entries in documents of the National Workers Federation and Nili."

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