Hirchson Faces Embezzlement Charges, Won't Request Immunity

AG submits letter of indictment against ex-minister for crimes including breach of trust, fraud, money laundering.

MK Abraham Hirchson will be indicted on charges of embezzlement, aggravated bribery, corporate breach of trust, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset House Committee Chairman MK David Tal on Sunday that he will be submitting the charge sheet against Hirchson and additional defendants to the Tel Aviv District Court,

By law, an MK who is charged with criminal offenses can ask, within 30 days of indictment, for the Knesset to grant immunity from prosecution. Hirchson's media advisor, Motti Sharf, told Haaretz Sunday that his client would not request immunity. Hirchson reportedly decided against requesting immunity because he is unlikely to receive it. Sharf declined to discuss Hirchson's continued service in the Knesset. The state prosecutor is expected to issue an indictment within a few days of Hirchson's formal announcement that he is forgoing immunity.

In October, Hirchson was presented with the draft of the indictment. Hirchson, through his attorney, Jacob Weinroth, declined his right to a hearing on the draft indictment.

According to the charge sheet, when Hirchson headed the National Workers Organization (NWO) labor union, from 1998-2005 - concurrently with his service in the Knesset - and Nili, an association that ran a network of kindergartens, he and others stole approximately NIS 4 million for Hirchson and for themselves. In 2003 he was appointed chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. In January 2005, after he was appointed tourism minister, Hirchson resigned from his NWO position.

Hirchson allegedly deposited about NIS 1 million in cash into his bank accounts. Hirchson received from the NWO between NIS 500,000 and NIS 750,000 before trips abroad between 2000 and 2004, and some NIS 600,000 to fund his primary campaign in 1998 and 2002.

Hirchson is alleged to have received between $2000 and $3000 before each of some 50 trips abroad between 2000 and 2004.

According to the indictment, the money was stolen in various ways: through checks that were cashed, with some of the money being given directly to Hirchson, by messenger; in monthly cash payments; before he traveled abroad; and in the form of holiday gifts and to pay various expenses. Some of the money from the cashed checks was placed in envelopes and given by the messengers to a woman who worked in Hirchson's home.

A large deal of the money was paid between 2000 and 2003 in the form of monthly increments of approximately NIS 25,000 each, also by cashing checks. Hirchson also stands accused of receiving reimbursement of expenses for meals he allegedly ate at restaurants on weekends and meals he had in the Knesset dining room, which were presented as having to do with his position in the NWO, but in fact were not.

The sum total of these expenses came to approximately NIS 115,000. They were reimbursed based on the presentation of false documents stating that the meals took place as part of his work as chairman of the NWO.

NK Ophir Pines (Labor) was among those who called Sunday for Hirchson's resignation from the Knesset. Pines also said Hirchson should defend himself from outside the Knesset. "It is shocking that a person who served as finance minister and in a series of senior positions is charged with such serious accusations, which first and foremost stain Kadima and the government, but also strike a mortal blow at the Knesset," Pines said.