The Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday sentenced former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson to five years and five month in prison after being found guilty of stealing NIS 2 million (roughly $508,000) from the National Labor Federation. He was also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 450,000 ($114,500).
The former minister's lawyers asked the court to delay the execution of the sentence. Hirchson was accompanied to the courthouse by his sons.
Hirchson was convicted of larceny, executive theft, fraud, breach of trust, illicitly obtaining funds, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents by the Tel Aviv District Court on June 8, and was acquitted of two counts of the indictment.
Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom harshly criticized the former minister while reading the sentence: '"It's inconceivable that he did not understand that taking the money is not only against the law, but also damages the heart of good governance. The message this court wants to send is loud and clear – his punishment will not be different than that of a common criminal."
'No different from a regular felon' (Photo: Yaron Brener)
The NLF said in response to the sentencing that "the court has sent out a message to all employees of the public sector in Israel. The fact that Hirchson's poor conduct has caused major financial damages to the Federation and has impaired its image cannot be ignored, and is still being tackled by the Federation to this day."
Knesset Member Ze'ev Boim of Hirchson's Kadima party commented on the sentencing, saying that "it is painful and unfortunate, since Hirchson is not a stranger to me and we were political partners.
"It is very saddening that a politician that reached such a high rank as finance minister stumbled and did things that no one should do. I only hope that this ruling is the last ruling on public officials and politicians and that such cases are not repeated," he added.
In the verdict, given in early June, the judge ruled that the NLF and the Nili Foundation under Hirchson turned into a "casino" where senior officials got funds they were not entitled to.
"Hirchson's versions are weak and have popped out of nowhere," she said. "His key failure was not providing one innocent explanation. His main problem is the multitude of versions."
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Hirchson's sentencing hearing was held last Thursday, and prosecutor Eli Schwartz asked the court to sentence the former finance minister to a lengthy prison sentence, saying that public officials who so blatantly use their position for personal gain must be severely punished.
The former finance minister's son, Elroee, asked the court for leniency on behalf of his father, saying that sending him to jail would be the same as issuing the death sentence.
"My father is the most important person in my life and with my mother gone, I was blessed to be raised by him. My heart is breaking into a million pieces when I see him standing accused. I keep waiting for someone to wake me up from this nightmare," he said in tears.