Police and the Israel Tax Authority will recommend indicting a former general whose earlier nomination for police commissioner crumbled over suspected illicit business dealings, Israeli television reported Friday, two days after he announced he would enter politics.
According to Channel 10 news, investigators are close to wrapping up a probe into Gal Hirsch and prosecutors believe there is sufficient evidence to charge him for tax evasion.
Hirsch reacted angrily to the report and called it a “predictable response” to his announcement Wednesday that he was entering politics ahead of elections in April.
“It appears we are watching a rerun. The same police that three and a half years ago illegally thwarted my candidacy for the role of police commissioner are now even trying to thwart my candidacy for the Knesset with the same improper means and leaks that are completely unsubstantiated,” he said in a statement.
Hirsch claimed police were trying to pin him with “baseless” tax charges in order to justify their initial decision to investigate him.
Prosecutors informed Hirsch earlier this year that one of the probes into his business activities was closed, but investigators continued to probe his business dealings in Georgia.
Hirsch was nominated for the position of police commissioner by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in August 2015, but shortly after his nomination was announced, media reports surfaced saying that the FBI and Israel Police had been conducting a two-year undercover corruption investigation into businesses linked to him.
Hirsch’s nomination was revoked a month later by Erdan after then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein said that he could not be legally appointed until the conclusion of the investigation against him, a process that Weinstein said at the time could take months.
Police had enlisted a state’s witness against Hirsch, and part of the evidence he provided reportedly included the bank account information of a disgraced minister of Israeli origin in the Georgian government to whom Hirsch’s company Defense Shield Holdings allegedly paid bribes as part of a deal to siphon money from Tbilisi.
Hirsch, who has denied wrongdoing, addressed the police investigation in a speech Wednesday.
“I am torn that there is an open but manufactured case against me. However, something happened — there was a dirty act here that prevented me from serving the public,” he said.
After leaving the IDF under a cloud of controversy following his performance during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hirsch became CEO of Defensive Shield, which describes itself as a “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defense, security and homeland security sectors around the world.”
Defensive Shield was also the name of the 2002 IDF operation against terror groups in the West Bank, in which Hirsch was praised for his conduct.
A once-promising senior officer who seemed bound for greatness in the IDF, Hirsch was forced out of active duty in the wake of the 2006 war, amid criticism over his failure to prevent the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers in the Hezbollah cross-border attack that triggered the conflict.
Shortly after his name was removed from contention for the top police spot, Hirsch said that “a systematic series of mudslinging incidents and efforts to blacken my name” were responsible for derailing his candidacy, while also saying he never actively sought the job.