The Tel Aviv District Court on Monday convicted former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson of larceny, executive theft, fraud, breach of trust, illicitly obtaining funds, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents. He was found guilty of stealing NIS 2.5 million (roughly $625,000) from the National Labor federation.
Hirchson was acquitted of two counts of the indictment.
"His main fault was that he failed to provide even one innocent explanation," said Justice Bracha Ophir-Tom in her ruling. "The major problem is the multitude of versions he gave," she added, referring to the former minister's attempt to minimize his part in the affair.
"I cannot accept this approach. The court's message is clear: Those who serve in senior positions also bear full responsibility, because if they don't – what is the point of them sitting there?"
The judge ruled that the NLF and the affiliated Nili organization have turned, under Hirchson's management, "into a casino in which all the executives earned money that wasn't theirs."
Hirchson spent NIS 60,000 ($15,000) on 104 meals at restaurants during weekends and charged it to the NLF account; he received another NIS 53,000 ($13,000) from the same source for meals at the Knesset cafeteria.
The court found that Hirchson had falsely presented the meals as being "work-related" in order to be reimbursed by the NLF.
Hirchson was indicted on multiple counts of fraud for allegedly embezzling about NIS 4 million (over $1.2 million) during his tenure as head of the National Labor Federation (NLF), between 1998 and 2005.
During his testimony, Hirchson said: "Being in this position – going from being a former minister to becoming a defendant at court, is very difficult for me. Since this affair began I can't say I've had one night of decent sleep. I keep tormenting myself every night and every second and I can't stop asking myself why I took the cash."
On another occasion Hirchson told the judge that he was "falling apart." He was also hospitalized during the trial.
The National Labor Federation said on Monday that the organization's board of directors has decided to work to retrieve the money that Hirschson was convicted of stealing.
Attorney Nahoum Feinberg, who will be filing the claim on behalf of the organization, said, "It's the National Labor Federation's public obligation to restore the money that was stolen from the public and we will do everything to implement the board of directors' decision in the matter."