Hirchson: I had no choice but to lie

Former finance minister accused of embezzlement questioned over alleged money transfers to his son.

hirchson top- use for conviction 298.175 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
hirchson top- use for conviction 298.175
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
After trying denial and regret, former finance minister Avraham Hirchson used a new tactic - victimhood - on Sunday, his third day of testimony at his trial on charges including embezzlement, theft and tax evasion. Hirchson explained that his actions - he allegedly embezzled NIS 2.5 million from the National Workers Organization and other nonprofit organizations that he managed and then repeatedly lied about his income - stemmed from fear that other parties in the embezzlement scheme would "blame the whole thing on me." "I was afraid that the Ethics Committee would find out about the truth about the receiving of the money, and so I had no choice but to lie, even to the Knesset speaker," Hirchson said. Prosecutors presented a video in court of Hirchson's police interrogation in which he told detectives that he had never taken any money illegally. Until Sunday, Hirchson had maintained that he was owed "every shekel he took" because he continued to serve as chairman of the National Workers Organization even after the Knesset passed a law in 1996 banning parliamentarians from earning a second income. The former finance minister said the payments of NIS 15,000 to NIS 25,000 a month were, in effect, advances on his pension for chairing the union. But during Sunday's court proceedings, the prosecutor alleged that money was used by Hirchson to help his son settle large debts. According to the prosecutor, Ofer Hirchson owed millions of shekels, and his father allegedly went into debt to pay off the son's expenses. The prosecutor then asked Hirchson whether in 2000, after suddenly racking up a NIS 200,000 overdraft in his bank account, he had turned to the National Workers Organization and requested additional money. The former finance minister confirmed that he had made the request. To this, Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom asked Hirchson: "I don't understand, the impression here is that things were done without coordination or authorization. How do you, as a man who managed large organizations, explain this version? We are seeing a very foggy picture. Nothing was authorized. What would you say if you saw this from a different vantage point." "That I was a special case," Hirchson replied. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.