Ex-general Gal Hirsch indicted for tax evasion totaling $1.9 million

Withdrawn candidate for police commissioner and 3 business partners accused of evading taxes on more than $12 million of income from defense deals in Georgia

Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch gives a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing his entry into politics, December 26, 2018. (Flash90)
Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch gives a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing his entry into politics, December 26, 2018. (Flash90)

A former Israel Defense Force brigadier general who was once in line to head the Israel Police was indicted Thursday for tax offenses.

The charges were filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court against Gal Hirsch, who left the military in 2006 amid criticism over the IDF’s failures in the Second Lebanon War.

According to the indictment, Hirsch failed to report or falsely reported some of the profits on his operations in a defense company in Georgia, a sum of no less than NIS 6.1 million ($1.9 million).

The indictment accuses Hirsch alongside business associates Oded Shachnai and Mikhael Benimini. A separate indictment was filed against Yaniv Adam as part of a plea bargain.

The four were partners in Defensive Shield, a company that provided defense advice and military training and brokered arms sales to Georgia, and also provided services to other countries between 2007 and 2009.

According to Channel 13 news, Hirsch had been in touch with prosecutors in recent weeks about a possible plea deal, but the sides failed to reach an agreement.

Defensive Shield executive Yaniv Adam, Israeli Ambassador to Georgia Yuval Fuchs and Defensive Shield executive Oded Shachnai in Georgia in 2012 (Facebook screenshot)

Prosecutors allege that the men collectively enriched themselves to the tune of at least NIS 40 million (about $12.5 million), but failed to report this income to the Tax Authority.

The state prosecutor alleged that the four business partners set up a web of companies and bank accounts in Israel, Georgia, and the British Virgin Islands that they used to receive income from Georgia’s Defense Ministry, divvy it up among themselves, and hide it from Israel’s Tax Authority.

“This complex and branched set of companies, as well as the many agreements and bank accounts used, was intended, among other things, to help the defendants receive the funds, divide them while disguising their receipt and helping them to hide their income,” prosecutors said.

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Hirsch and Shachnai jointly managed the company’s activities in Georgia, including management, planning and implementation, the indictment said. The two were responsible for liaising with the Georgian Defense Ministry and local officials. Benimini worked in Georgia to promote the company and its interests, while Adam was responsible for, among other things, professional supervision and mentoring in the program.

According to the state prosecutor, in 2007-2009 Shachnai failed to report personal income of a least NIS 19.5 million ($6 million). Benimini is accused of hiding personal income of NIS 13.6 million ($4.2 million) from the Tax Authority.

Yaniv Adam, the father of singer Omer Adam, is accused of hiding NIS 3.8 million ($1.18 million). As part of his plea bargain, he agreed to admitting guilt to charges connected to his negligent misreporting of income, and the parties will in turn petition the court for an agreed penalty of six months of community service work and a fine of NIS 100,000, after settling the tax debt with the authorities.

On June 30, 2019 Gal Hirsch (left) joined the Likud at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he wrote in a Facebook post (Facebook)

Lawyers for Hirsch — Navot Tel-Tzur, Giora Aderet and Tal Shapira — said in response to the indictment that they “regretfully received” the announcement of the indictment.

“With the collapse of the bribery cases that unjustifiably led to the thwarting of Hirsch’s appointment as Israel Police Commissioner, we are left with a shaky indictment on suspicion of a tax offense,” they said in a statement to the Kan public broadcaster.

“During several hearings, we presented to the prosecution at length with unequivocal evidence that all of Hirsch’s reports were lawful and that full tax was paid on his income,” the lawyers said.

Hirsch is a Likud politician and was a favorite of party activists for the role of police chief.

Benimini is a close relative of Georgia’s former defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and has recently run a binary options and cryptocurrency call center from Albania.

Simona Weinglass contributed to this report.

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