Union Courier: I Cashed Checks for Hirchson

Twice a month for three or four years, Shlomo Aroas, a courier for the National Workers Union, would be sent to cash checks made out to him, for former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, Aroas testified at the Hirchson trial yesterday.

Hirchson stands accused of embezzling some NIS 2.5 million from the union and from Nili, a non-profit association connected to it.

"They would tell me, 'Go, it's urgent, urgent; bring him the envelope,'" Aroas told the Tel Aviv District Court.

According to Aroas, he would be sent some four or five times a year, before the March of the Living in Poland, to money-changers to change between $1,000 and $3,000. He would also buy medication in Be'er Sheva for Hirchson; a gag order has been placed on the type of medication.

Aroas testified that at one point he was not allowed into the union's finance department and was told to sit in the hallway. "I said, for my children's livelihood, I'll sit in the hallway. Shlomo, don't do anything foolish, don't resign."

Eventually, Aroas was fired.

A member of the union's oversight committee, Ilan Lavi, testified that when he was appointed he had no knowledge of bookkeeping and that he and the other committee members "didn't do our job." He said the committee would look at one or two pages of the financial reports and sign off on them.

In 2006 they realized something was wrong, but Lavi claimed that when they asked to check the irregularities, they ran into opposition from the committee chairman. In the end they submitted a police complaint.

The head of the union's human resources, Gadi Medina, told the court how one day the union's accountant, Gideon Ben-Tzur, asked him to cash an NIS 30,000 check for Hirchson. He said he asked his boss, Yitzhak Russo, about it and was told it was alright.

Eventually Aroas turned up, Medina signed the check and Aroas cashed it. Medina testified that he did not know what the money was used for; however, Aroas said he gave it to Medina. Hirchson's lawyer, Ya'akov Weinrot, accused Medina of taking the money for himself, which Medina denied.