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A messenger for Nili - a non-profit organization associated with the National Workers Histadrut Union - was among the organization's five highest income earners in the years 1999 to 2003, it transpired in former finance minister Abraham Hirchson's trial yesterday.

Hirchson was indicted in June this year in the Tel Aviv District Court on charges of stealing between NIS 2 million and NIS 2.5 million from two organizations he headed between 1998 and 2005 - the National Workers Organization and its subsidiary, Nili.

He was charged with embezzlement, fraud, aggravated fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents.

From 1999 to 2003 Nili's messenger, David Cohen, is listed as earning from NIS 173,091 to NIS 305,625 annually, totaling NIS 1.3 million. However, the prosecution understands that in at least two cases the wages of Nili officials were fictitious, to conceal the embezzlements, and the officials never received the large sums appearing on their pay slips, Haaretz has learned.

Cohen's attorney Aharon Rosa commented that his client's salary was "average, way below the wages of various senior officials, and he received no forbidden increments."

Rosa added that Cohen's name did not belong on that list and appeared there by mistake or forgery.

Cohen is the most junior defendant in the affair, but is charged with stealing the highest sum of money. After falling into gambling debts he asked his brother, Ovadia Cohen, who served as Nili chairman and head of finances in the National Workers' Union for help. Ovadia Cohen was convicted of theft last month.