Police Recommend Charging Gal Hirsch, Former Army Officer Who Joined Likud, of Tax Evasion

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Gal Hirsch speaking in Tel Aviv, December, 2018.
Gal Hirsch speaking in Tel Aviv, December, 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani

Israel police are recommending that criminal charges be filed against retired Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch on suspicions that he evaded paying tens of millions of shekels in taxes as an executive of Defensive Shield, a Netanya-based security and defense firm that he founded.

Hirsch had initially been suspected of money laundering, tax evasion and bribing the Georgian defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, in an alleged effort to secure business from the Georgian government. Kezerashvili was later acquitted of taking bribes.

In their announcement on Monday that they are recommending that Hirsch be indicted for tax evasion, the police said following a four-year investigation, they had also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support charging Hirsch with paying bribes to the defense minister of the southwest Asian republic.

The recommendation comes a week after Hirsch joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, which later tweeted "it certainly not a coincidence."

In January of this year, Hirsch launched a political party, Magen, which failed to pass the electoral threshold in April's election.

Hirsch last served in the Israel Defense forces as the commander of the Galilee Division and retired from the army after the 2006 Second Lebanon War amid criticism by a commission of inquiry of the division’s performance when two Israeli soldiers were abducted.

After his retirement, he founded Defensive Shield, and from 2006 to 2007 advised Georgia’s ground forces.

The police have also recommended indicting seven other employees of Defensive Shield, including the company's current CEO Oded Shachnai, whom police suspect of fraud, forgery, money laundering and tax evasion.

The investigation of Hirsch was launched in 2015 after he was nominated as the chief of the Israel Police.  Hirsch later withdrew his candidacy. A background check revealed that the Republic of Georgia had requested information from Israeli authorities on the alleged bribery of the country's defense minister. The police investigation also focused on suspicions that Hirsch and Shachnai evaded taxes in connection with business transactions in Georgia between 2007 and 2009. His nomination as police chief never came to fruition.

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