Ex-finance Minister Hirschson Sentenced to 65 Months in Jail

One-time Kadima head convicted of embezzling millions while serving as head of national labor federation.

A Tel Aviv court on Wednesday sentenced former finance minister Abraham Hirschson to five years and five months in prison and a fine of NIS 450,000, for embezzling NIS 1.8 million from the national labor federation while he served as its chairman.

He returned NIS 570,000 in cash to the national labor federation on Tuesday, in addition to NIS 1.16 million in checks.

Hirschson was convicted of receiving cash payments of tens of thousands of shekels on a semi-monthly basis over the course of several years.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court sentenced former Shas MK Shlomo Benizri to four years incarceration and an NIS 250,000 fine for his 2008 conviction on bribery and other corruption charges.

Benizri had appealed his original sentence last April of 18 months incarceration, a suspended sentence of eight months, and NIS 80,000 in fines following his conviction for bribery and other charges of corruption.

Last April, the court ruled that Benizri had received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of services from contractor Moshe Sela, including furniture, installation of an air-conditioning system, payments to a charity and renovations. In addition, Sela donated NIS 200,000 and $30,000 to a yeshiva.

Benizri was convicted of conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice because he agreed with Sela to lie about his accepting perks. The two attempted to coordinate their stories with others involved.

Benizri, however, was acquitted of receiving money from Sela apparently in order to pay off a mortgage, or possibly some other form of regular assistance. He was also acquitted of receiving monthly payments of $200,000.

The former minister and Elbaz were accused of accepting money and favors from Sela between 1996 and 2001, when Benizri served as health minister, deputy health minister and labor and welfare minister. At the time, Sela owned human resources companies that brought foreign workers into Israel.

As he was exiting the courthouse, Benizri said, "this is a difficult day for me and my loved ones, my wife and my kids, some of whom were born while this affair was taking place."

Benizri added that he had been through "nine years of torture" and that he had been "persecuted by the media".

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador made a joint statement after the sentences were handed down, calling it "a sad day for Israeli society," but adding that that the sentences send "an important and reassuring message for Israeli society that it is undergoing a process of cleaning out the problem of governmental corruption."