Daily Israel Report

Finance Minister Next in Line for Police Investigation

After weeks of rumors and speculation, A-G Meni Mazuz has approved a police investigation of Finance Minister Hirschson - on charges that he knew of, and may have taken part in, massive embezzling.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/8/2007, 8:22 AM / Last Update: 1/8/2007, 10:08 AM

The story began in 2003, when it was discovered that 5.6 million shekels were missing from the Nili non-profit association, which was associated with the Leumit Workers' Union.

The two main players in the story are Hirschson and the main suspect in the embezzlement, Ovadiah Cohen. Hirschson was Chairman of both the Leumit Workers Union and the Knesset Finance Committee, while Cohen served as Chairman of the Union's Finance Committee and its Nili non-profit association.

Hirschson, it is charged, did not go to the police with the story of the embezzlement, preferring to keep the story under wraps. This crime of omission was the original source of the suspicions against the Minister. It has now been learned, however, that Hirschson is suspected of having benefited from the actual embezzlement itself.

The Justice Ministry refused to confirm or deny today whether Mazuz had actually given the go-ahead for the police to question Hirschson. The Finance Minister's office, for its part, issued a statement saying, "If the Finance Minister is summoned for questioning, he will be happy to give his full version of the events. Minister Hirschson has nothing to hide, and he is confident in the efficient work of the law authorities."

Cohen is currently in jail, together with his two brothers, in connection with the missing millions. The NFC website reports that the police are considering trying to recruit him as a state's witness against Hirschson.

Hirschson was the initiator and head of the March of the Living program to Auschwitz, and was the Secretary-General of the Zionist Socialist Youth Movement (Noar HaLeumi HaOved V'HaLomed) from 1970 until 1992.