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Tag: Avraham Hirschson

Ganavim Get Sentenced: Hirschson & Benizri To Do Time

“We have to clean and sweep not under but over the carpet”, says retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat on the decisions that sent Hirschson and Benizri into incarceration. Former Tel Aviv District Attorney objects: The punishment for the former Treasury Minister is too lenient, and does not get the message across.

Avraham Hirschson - 5 + Years In The Big HouseIn one day, two former Israeli government ministers are being sent to jail: Avraham Hirschson was handed down a sentence of five years and five months. Shlomo Benizri received a harsher sentence of 4 years in prison. In a conversation with Ynet, legislators fighting against corruption approve of the sentence, but there are some who claim that it should have been stiffer. Former State Comptroller, retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat wonders: “Who knows how many more Hirschsons there are?

Ben Porat expressed satisfaction with the legal decisions:

“It’s good that punishment is meted out and we show that everyone is equal. Someone with a senior position should have to pay even more. Hirschson was trusted with Treasury funds and engaged in transactions for the entire country. He should have been purer than pure. It is unfortunate, he gave at least an outward impression of a man who cares, who fights for Holocaust survivors”.

She states that corruption “should be cleaned and swept – not under but over the carpet, and that’s what we’re doing now. It is difficult to know how many did not receive the punishments they deserve, because you can only conduct legal proceedings when there is evidence. Just bringing someone to trial is already a deterrent. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but matters are being dealt with as they should – with the necessary severity – and I welcome that, states Ben-Porat.

Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom referred at length to the corruption issues in Hirschson’s verdict and expressed surprise that “the same image of a good man and benefactor could turn into the image of someone who steals public funds together with his subordinates to support “the good life” he and they have become accustomed to as a lifestyle. Was it just drunken power that changed the accused’s view of the the world? Or was it unlimited greed combined with the atmosphere of neglect that took over the organization whose actions no one any longer oversaw?”

At the comptroller’s office it is said that “today the Court clearly expressed the importance of the struggle against public corruption. The comptroller’s office, which has been spearheading the Hirschson scandal from its very first stages, will continue in the struggle against public corruption, and for morality in the country, not excluding those at the top of the pyramid and including all enforcement officials. The comptroller’s office has proclaimed its views more than once, that only a process of proper investigation, followed by legal trial and severe punishment – all immediately following commitment of the crime – will help to cleanse society from the corruption that has affected it.

Retired judge Dalia Dorner is satisfied by “the appropriate legal rulings”, and believes that “they deserve retribution, not in terms of revenge, but in terms of public denunciation of acts of this kind. Fraud and theft have been with us from biblical times, but when it involves public figures, the punishment should be severe. Denunciation is most important and therefore you must take into account that a light punishment may suggest that the crime wasn’t really that bad. God help us if we broadcast that kind of message”.

In the Hirschson case, prosecution demanded a sentence of at least 7 years incarceration for the Treasury minister, who was convicted of stealing milllions, but the judge ruled a lesser sentence. The State has not yet announced whether or not it will appeal. However, then senior prosecutor in the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s office, Adv. Miriam Rosenthal, claims that that are good reasons for this: “He did not express his regret, and the difference between his sentence and the others’ is too slight,” she stated to Ynet.

“The District Court gave heavy consideration to Hirschonson’s personal circumstances,” Rosenthal added. “The punishment is fairly lenient, particularly when the other defendants, who confessed in a plea bargaining and did not waste the Court’s time – and did not spend the funds as Hirschson did, received sentences of up to five years. An extra six months is a light addition.”

When he harshened Ben Izri’s sentence, one of the Supreme Court Judges, Edmond Levy, wrote: “The rising corruption among Israeli governing authorities necessitates the action of setting a higher price…to cope with this affliction and to deter others. Words of admonishment are no longer enough. It’s time to take action.”

Adv. Rosenthal agrees that the punishment in the Ben Izri case is meant to deter – as punishments up to now have not been sufficent. “Ben Izri is not a victim,” she stresses. Despite this, there wasn’t enough in Hirschson’s conviction to get a message across.

And what’s next? Rosenthal sees a link between the two cases only in their involving two public figures who have transgressed – because their crimes are different. Ben Izri accepted a bribe; Hirschson stole. “In my opinion, the prosecution will not link these two cases. If they appeal, it will be due to the comparison between those charged and convicted in a plea bargaining and a man who was convicted after he denied the charges and went through with a trial”.

Corruption Case Against Olmert Heating Up

No sooner had former Kadima government finance minister Avraham Hirschson been sentenced to 5 years and 5 months for theft of public funds (among other things) and former Shas Party Health, Labor and Welfare minister Shlomo Benizri lost his bribery appeal (and got sentenced for more than twice the original period of 18 months), millionaire investor Morris Talansky was back in Israel to testify in the continuing investigations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is facing a number of charges, including being accused of taking more than $300,000 that Talansky was said to have contributed to Olmert’s mayoral campaign in Jerusalem.

talanskyOlmert’s legal problems are a bit different now than they were when Talanasky last appeared in Israel to answer questions concerning the monies he gave to the former prime minister; especially since Olmert is now a private citizen, and as such no longer has the immunity he had as Prime Minister. Talansky himself is under investigation in the USA under suspicion that he illegally transferred large sums of money to Israel under the guise of the money being “contributions”. Besides the noted sum that Talansky is said to have “contributed” to Olmert’s mayoral campaign, there is also the matter of a sum of $150,000 that he is said to have given to Olmert over a period o f years, and used by Olmert for his own personal benefit, including upgrading hotel rooms during trips abroad.

Talansky is under suspicion by American authorities of using his relationship with Olmert to transfer funds illegally to Israel. He noted to reporters that he had been warned against returning to Israel, but felt that he needed to set the record straight. One of the big questions concerning Talansky’s relationship with Olmert was whether Olmert obtained the funds under false pretenses, and whether part of it had been considered to be a bribe. For his part, Talansky only agreed to return to Israel to testify after an agreement had been reached with both Israeli and American authorities in order that his testimony would not incriminate him by returning to Israel.

With two of his former ministers already going “up river” will the former prime minister also be heading in that same direction? Or is he clever enough to find a way out with only a slight “slap on the wrist”. Corruption seems to be becoming more commonplace among government officials and politicians these days, and even former P.M. Ariel Sharon might have had so face similar counts (that led to his son Omri serving a short prison term for miss-use of campaign funds) had Sharon not suffered a severe stroke in January 2006 that has left him comatose and totally incapacitated.

Hirschson Going to the Big House

The State has demanded at least 7 years incarceration for the former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson. Prosecutor: Hirschson has violated public trust, leaving a feeling that public figures are living high on the taxpayer’s expense. Elroi Hirschson: It breaks my heart to see my father at the defendant’s table; imprisonment will actually be a death penalty.

Two conflicts in the courtroom: the need to hand down a deterring punishment – and the desire to show a little mercy. The son of former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson, whom the court last week determined had misappropriated vast sums of money from the National Histadrut, said on Thursday morning at a plea hearing at the Tel Aviv Regional Courthouse that imprisonment of his father would in actuality be a death penalty.

EX Finance Minister Avraham HirchsonThe prosecutor, adv. Eli Schwartz, asked the court to deliver a long, deterring sentence, more severe than the ones handed down to his partners in the case. “They obtained their strength from him, he is first and foremost”, he stated. In this context – he repeated that the State had demanded a 7-year sentence for Ovadia Cohen, one of the accused in the case. In his opinion, Hirschson’s sentence should be more severe, should include a suspended sentence with strict fine, and his actions should be determined a disgrace.

Over the last several months, the Court has delivered verdicts of four years’ incarceration to Cohen, who was head of the Financial Dept. of the National Histadrut; 40 months of direct incarceration to Nili’s accountant, Amatsia Bonner. Fifteen months of incarceration were handed down to former Histadrut director, Yitzhak Ruso; the organization’s bookkeeper, Ronit Garti, was sentenced to public service. All four confessed and were convicted within the framework of a plea-bargaining.

The prosecutor also stated in his plea for sentencing that he does not downplay Hirschson’s good deeds over the years, or his activities for the benefit of Holocaust survivors – but at the same time, public representatives who use their positions as a means for personal financial gain should be severely punished.

Schwartz added that Hirschson has violated public trust, leaving a feeling that public representatives live high on the taxpayer’s expense, and added that Hirschson has lived his daily life while continually committing felonies over the years.

Son Elroi, who wept when the verdict was read, has asked for mercy for his father, who was only recently able to see his first grandchild;

“My father is the most important figure in my life. I have memories of my mother’s misery and suffering during the first years of my life. My father did everything for my mother; he took care of her for years and was both a father and mother to us. When people asked me what it was like to grow up without a mother, I would tell them that God had blessed me with such a warm and loving father that I don’t know where he gets his mental strength from. ”

“It breaks my heart to see my father at the defendant’s table. I am waiting for someone to wake me up from this nightmare,” added the son and stated that since the publication of the first article on his father’s deeds he hardly leaves the house: “The articles are being written one after the other and there seems to be a competition to see who can write a more condemning story. My father’s life has not been easy; he lost my mother to a fatal disease. I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through the suffering he has known.”

Hirschson has been charged with embezzling approximately 2 million shekels from the National Histadrut, and with taking bribes. The judge stated that the National Histadrut and Nili, under the former finance minister’s management had become a “casino” in which all senior representatives win money that is not theirs. Hirschson’s lawyer has already announced that he will appeal the conviction.

The former finance minister has also been charged with theft under management, fraud under aggravated circumstances, fraud and violation of corporation trust, laundering funds and falsification of corporation documents. Along with this, the Court has acquitted Hirschson on two accounts – financing the primaries and financing a conference at Ganei HaTa’aruha. The verdict will be served this Wednesday.

Translated by Lori Bul.

Hirshson Steals The Entire Cookie Jar

Avraham HirchsonI am getting the feeling that as we approach our 60th anniversary we are moving closer towards some sort of corruption climax. As an optimist I would like to think that we are cleaning house before the special birthday (this Wednesday night…). Today our Minister of Finance (Ex) was finally accused of theft – big time theft. In his capacity as Chairman of the Employees Organization he allegedly store 4 Million Shekel – 2.5 of which ended in his pocket. He is also charged with faking expenses and restaurants receipts for over 115,000 Shekels. Among the various charges (and there are a few) he is charged with money laundering, theft, embezzlement, forgery of corporate documents and breech of trust.

Since he is an Knesset Member (OY VEY !!!!) and he was caught not only with his hand in the cookie jar but with the entire cookie jar, he has the next 30 days to ask for immunity.

All this happened this morning while Shula Zaken, head of Olmert’s Office (EX again..) was interrogated for six hours as to her involvement in a corruption investigation that involves…..you guessed it – Olmert himself. So he was investigated last week and she was there today (not cooperating by the way……) and then Hirshson “stole” the headlines today.

Now last week, another oldie but goodie, member of Knesset Avigdor Liberman called a press conference where he complains about the horrible way he’s being treated by the Police and what a terrible witch hunt is being going through – over the last 12 years there has been an ongoing investigation. Police claims that he is not forthcoming and is not cooperating with the investigation.

Finally we have the “old news” that Shlomo Benizri of SHAS was sentenced to 18 months in the big house for accepting bribes. He was deputy Minister of Health, Minister of Health and Minister of Labour. Very impressive…. Anyway he was caught taking bribes, attempting to destry evidence and interfering with an investigation and lots of good stuff.

So you see – as we approach Wednesday’s celebrations we will hopefully have a little less crap in the Knesset 🙂

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