The Bottom Line / Enough, Hirchson, it's time to go home
Former state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg buried a section of his report on Bank Yahav involving a senior public official who received an excessive credit line from Bank Yahav. Now it can be revealed that this figure was none other than Abraham Hirchson. The report's findings indicate that hundreds of thousands of shekels passed through the Finance Minister's Yahav account.
Another finding suggests the case of Hirchson's specific account went beyond the norm even for those who received excessive credit at the bank, and despite this the bank did not close his account.
The buried section in the report does not tie Hirchson's associate, Yahav chair Mickey Zoller, to his excessive credit line. The affair still raises the discomfort level significantly, especially because Hirchson at the time was nothing less than chair of the Knesset Finance Committee. He was the man who for a long period closely dealt with banking matters, until pressure from the media forced him to recuse himself from dealing with this subject. It wasn't because of Zoller, heaven forbid, that he backed off but because of the heavy debts incurred by his son, Ofer Hirchson.
The increasingly complicated affair is arousing too much discomfort around the Finance Minister, even if we presume that he did not commit any offense. It's impossible, for example, to stay seated in one's chair when reading the story of the suitcases filled with $200,000 cash which Hirchson tried to leave Poland.
The money laundering law requires one taking more than NIS 80,000 in cash across an international border to declare it, and here it turns out the current Finance Minister himself tried to smuggle in $200,000 from Poland. Though the money laundering law did not exist at the time, such that no offense was committed, the rationale leading to its creation - that large sums of cash require explanations - still stands.
Hirchson's publicized defense of the dollar-laden suitcases does nothing to calm public fears. The explanation, for example, that Jews from South Africa had overpaid for their participation in the March of the Living invites the question: Why was the program collecting cash payments from participants in the first place. A further question arises whether March of the Living had turned into a front for abetting tax evasion for Jews across the world.
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