Last update - 18:44 05/04/2007
Police may question Hirchson again over graft suspicions
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Reporter and Haaretz Service
The Police Economic Crimes Unit on Thursday questioned Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson at its Lod headquarters for the third time in connection with the embezzlement and fraud affair in the Histadrut national workers' federation and the Nili non-profit association. Police said after the questioning that they expect Hirchson will be summoned again for further questioning.
Police also said that progress has been made in the case. Hirchson is suspected of embezzling NIS 10 million from the National Workers' Organization (NWO). The suspicions are based on documents collected over months of investigation of alleged fraud and misappropriation of funds from Nili, a Jewish youth organization, March of the Living and bodies connected to the NWO.
Police also investigated monetary transfers to and from the account of Ofer Hirchson, the finance minister's son, and found that they match transactions made to and from his father's account.
One of the key suspects in the Nili embezzlement case is Ramat Gan Deputy Mayor Ovadia Cohen. Cohen, Hirchson's long-time confidant, admitted under questioning that he took part in the embezzlement, but claimed that some of the money was transferred to Hirchson.
Cohen co-signed a loan Hirchson took from Bank Yahav, together with Hirchson's son, businessman Ofer Hirchson, who was also questioned under caution in connection with the case.
After the investigation, reports began circulating about Hirchson's alleged embezzlement of millions, about envelopes bulging with cash and about suspicions that some of the money helped fund the election campaign of his close associate, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Other, more sympathetic, leaks said that Hirchson was completely innocent and that all the suspicions were generated by the other suspects who resented him, that there were no envelopes and no cash.