Hirchson Is No Thief, May Have Breached Trust

Former finance minister Abraham Hirchson may be guilty of breach of trust but did not steal money, his attorney Jacob Weinroth said in his closing argument at Tel Aviv District Court yesterday.

Hirchson is on trial for embezzling NIS 2.5 million from the National Workers Organization labor union, which he headed, as well as for bribery, corporate breach of trust, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents.

A verdict will be handed down within a month or so.

Weinroth argued that Hirchson deserved the money as part of his retirement agreement with the NWO, so even if he took it without reporting it to the authorities or registering it properly, he is not a thief.

"We're not saying what he did was right, we're only talking about the theft offense ... not about breach of trust and violating the Knesset members' immunity act," Weinroth said.

He said that while others who had been convicted of theft had stolen funds without registering them at all, Hirchson registered the money he took in a special card index.

"This is an amazing thing. If he was stealing the money, would he take the trouble to register it?" he asked.

He said the prosecution had accepted Hirchson's version that he had not properly registered the funds or reported them because he feared this would breach the act on MKs' immunity, which prohibits MKs from receiving a second salary.

Judge Bracha Ophir-Tom asked: "If you owe me money and don't return it, and I find your wallet with the money you owe me in it and take it, isn't that stealing?"

Weinroth said it was not.

A prosecutor argued that Hirchson and his confidants had emptied out the organization, each in his own way. "It doesn't matter what they called that money, they could have called it a holiday bonus, a 13th salary or any name they saw fit. At the end of the day nobody disputes that the board of directors did not approve giving those funds to the defendant," he said.

Commenting on Hirchson's argument that he had agreed with two others involved in the case to extend his retirement agreement, the prosecutor said "the defendant cannot decide on his retirement terms on his own accord with his confidants."

He also said the defendant used his position "to enrich himself."

According to the indictment, money was stolen in various ways; for example, through cashed checks, with some of the money given directly to Hirchson by messenger, in monthly cash payments, and via holiday gifts.