State Prosecution Reveals Contradictions in Hirchson's Testimonies to Court, Police

Former finance minister Abraham Hirchson's initial statement to the police directly contradicts what he said in court during two and a half days of testimony, the prosecution revealed at yesterday's session of Hirchson's ongoing embezzlement trial.

Hirchson had told the Tel Aviv District Court that the monthly cash payments of NIS 25,000 he received as chairman of the National Workers Organization were in lieu of contributions to his severance fund, under an arrangement made with the organization's chief financial officer, Gideon Ben-Tzur. But in his statement to the police, which the prosecutor read out in court yesterday, he said: "I never had any compensation arrangement with Gideon. The only compensation arrangement I had is what I received when I decided to quit my job at the organization. I never received cash, not under this or any other arrangement, and I don't know where the CEO got these things."

The CEO, Yitzhak Russo, had told the police that the cash payments were part of a severance deal.

Hirchson later changed his story and admitted to receiving the money, but said it was in lieu of severance pay. He said he received NIS 600,000, but was actually owed much more.

He also said that he, Ben-Tzur and Ovadia Cohen, head of the organization's financial division, agreed on cash payments because he feared people would erroneously think he was receiving a salary rather than severance pay. Knesset members are forbidden to hold paying jobs in addition to their parliamentary work.

However, Cohen denies this story, and Ben-Tzur died before the indictment was filed.

"You have no problem lying, Mr. Hirchson," the prosecutor charged. "You've smeared everyone in order to save your own skin."

Hirchson responded that he initially lied because he was so afraid during the police interrogation.