Yitzhak Abergil and his brother, Meir, who are wanted in the United States for money laundering, extortion, drug smuggling and murder, were extradited yesterday to California, where they will stand trial.
The brothers, who are believed to be the leaders of one of Israel's most notorious crime syndicates, were placed on a U.S.-bound jet along with three alleged co-conspirators - Yisrael Ozifa, Moshe Malul and Sasson Barashi.
The extradition was carried out as part of complex operations involving dozens of detectives and police special forces. The suspects, who were handcuffed as they were led out of their cells at Hadarim Prison, were taken into custody by U.S. marshals on a plane specially flown to Israel.
As part of the preparations for the extradition, access roads leading to the terminal where the U.S.-bound plane was located were blocked off. Journalists were denied access to the area.
The extradition of the five men is the result of a six-year investigation conducted by law enforcement agencies in Israel, the United States and other countries. In July 2008, prosecutors filed an indictment with a California court that listed charges including money laundering, extortion, murder and drug trafficking.
According to the charge sheet, the five suspects are implicated in these crimes by virtue of their activities in the service of the Abergil crime family.
The Abergil brothers are alleged to have been involved in a money laundering scheme made possible by the Eti Alon embezzlement scandal at Trade Bank. According to the indictment, the Abergils threatened people to whom they had lent money.
Yitzhak Abergil is accused of trafficking ecstasy and plotting to murder reputed drug dealer Sami Atias.
Their extradition to the United States was given the go-ahead by the Jerusalem District Court. Last month, the Supreme Court rejected appeals by the defendants against the state's decision to extradite.
Authorities in Los Angeles recently arrested Gabi Ben Harush, the reputed head of the so-called Jerusalem Gang and an alleged accomplice of the Abergils. Ben Harush is alleged to have laundered money that was embezzled from Trade Bank.
Five years ago, Ben Harush made a deal with the U.S. authorities to turn state's witness and testify against Chai Vaknin, an alleged co-conspirator who was also on trial in Los Angeles. In exchange, Ben Harush was given community service and placed under a judge's supervision for three years.
Ben Harush is now sought by authorities who say he used forged identities and violated immigration and property law. His wife, Sima, is suspected of divorcing her husband and entering into a fictitious marriage with an American national to obtain citizenship.
The Abergils' attorneys deny that any incriminating evidence against their clients has surfaced in Ben Harush's statements during the Vaknin trial and the proceedings against Ben Harush in Los Angeles.
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