Hirchson Indictment: NIS 72,000 in Drugs, NIS 62,000 in Restaurant Meals

Charges were filed yesterday against former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson for allegedly embezzling NIS 2.5 million from the National Workers Organization and Nili, a subsidiary foundation, between 1998 and 2005.

According to the indictment in Tel Aviv District Court, a total of NIS 12.3 million was embezzled from both organizations, taken by five employees who are also defendants in the case.

Separate charges were brought against the former chief finance officer of the NWO, Ovadia Cohen, his brother, David Cohen, who was a courier for Nili, and a former accountant at the organization, Ronit Gerati. The embezzlement of NIS 12.3 is attributed to Ovadia Cohen, who allegedly transfered NIS 6.5 to his brother to cover gambling debts.

Also charged yesterday was former NWO director general Yitzhak Russo.

In the 34-page indictment, Hirchson is charged with embezzling public funds and using the money to pay for expensive medicine, luxurious meals, but also less fancy meals at the Knesset cafeteria.

Hirchson served as chairman of the NWO from 1998 to 2005, during which time the state prosecution alleges he conspired with Ovadia Cohen to steal funds from the organization and Nili, a subsidiary.

The prosecution claims that during that period, Hirchson, Russo and Amatzia Boner, the accountant for Nili, stole about NIS 4 million to NIS 2.5 million most of which is believed to have gone to Hirchson.

According to a written agreement between Hirchson and Cohen, the former finance minister was to receive monthly payments of NIS 25,000 between 2000 and 2003 for expenses.

The prosecution claims that the checks were cashed and couriers would deliver the cash to Hirchson's home in Tel Aviv, in envelopes. Occasionally the envelopes were delivered to Hirchson in person at the offices of the NWO.

According to the indictment, Hirchson used NIS 72,000 to pay for medicines - agreeing with Cohen that the prescriptions would be made in the name of Shlomo Aruas, a courier at the NWO, and payments would be made by the organization.

Aruas apparently met with Hirchson's doctors who wrote the prescriptions in their clinics. It is still unclear whether they will be prosecuted.

The indictment also notes that Hirchson agreed with Cohen that funds would be provided to him for funding his election campaign in the Likud. Cohen apparently took two loans, for a total of NIS 68,000 from a French resident, for the 1999 and 2002 elections.

The charge sheet includes many pages detailing 112 receipts that Hirchson presented the NWO accounting department as restaurant expenses during weekends (when he was not on duty). Between 1999 and 2004, Hirchson spent NIS 62,000 of NWO funds in restaurants.

There are also receipts worth NIS 53,000 from the Knesset cafeteria, which Hirchson sent to the NWO to pay, presenting false information that it was part of his work for the organization.

On this particular violation, he is charged with fraud.

Of the NIS 2.5 million Hirchson is accused of embezzling, the indictment states that he placed NIS 1 million in cash in his accounts. The breakdown includes NIS 1.2 million for monthly expenses, NIS 160,000 for holiday gifts, NIS 500,000 to NIS 575,000 for travel, NIS 72,000 for medicine, and NIS 600,000 for election campaigns, which also includes loans.