Former finance minister sentenced to five years and five months in prison

Other News Materials 24 June 2009 17:11 (UTC +04:00)

Former finance minister Avraham Hirchson was sentenced Wednesday to five years and five months in jail by the Tel Aviv District Court for stealing NIS 2.3 million from the National Federation of Workers and its subsidiary organization, Nili, Jerusalem Post reported

He was also fined NIS 450,000.

Hirchson was convicted on June 8 on charges including theft by a director, deceit and breach of trust in a corporate body, money-laundering and making false entries in the documents of a corporate body. On a separate charge, he was convicted on two counts of obtaining something by deceit in aggravated circumstances.

Hirchson's lawyers said they planned to appeal against the punishment, and so the court delayed the start of his sentence until July 26, giving them time to do so.

Handing down the punishment, Judge Bracha Ophir-Tom stated, "It's ludicrous to say that the accused didn't understand the criminal significance of the actions he took. If the person put in charge of the state's coffers can't understand that, then who can?"

The judge said "the message needs to be crystal clear," that even a high-level public servant who abuses his position can expect to be treated like any other criminal.

The prosecution said it would also request that a court bond be imposed on Hirchson, amid fears he would try and flee the country.

On Tuesday, Hirchson sent a check for NIS 570,000 to the National Federation of Workers, and the court said Wednesday that it took the return of the funds into consideration when deciding upon how much to fine the former finance minister.

Hirchson's lawyer, Ya'acov Weinroth, had written to the union's lawyer, Nahum Feinberg, saying that "now that the ruling has been handed down, my client wishes to pay back whatever debt he may have to the union, including sums that he denies having taken illegally." Weinroth added that Hirchson had raised the money from friends and acquaintances.

Feinberg said in response that the National Federation of Workers (NFW) regarded the money as one payment, but that Hirchson still owed the union a great deal more.

During a hearing on sentencing pleas last week, the state had asked the court to send Hirchson to prison for at least seven years. Hirchson's son, Elro'i, had said that sentencing his father to time in jail would be tantamount to a death sentence.