Convicted Israeli Killer Extradited From Argentina, Ending Nine-year Saga

Moshe Ben-Ivgi fled country in 2004 while on furlough, was 14 when he helped kill the British-born taxi driver on a lark.

Moshe Ben-Ivgi, one of two teenagers who were convicted of the 1994 “Clockwork Orange” murder of British-born taxi driver Derek Roth, is to be extradited back to Israel on Wednesday, nearly 10 years after fleeing the country. Israeli justice officials said Ben-Ivgi was on a flight from Argentina, escorted by Israeli police officers.

In 2004, while on furlough from prison, Ben-Ivgi fled to Argentina using a forged passport. He was arrested in Buenos Aires in October of that year, and Israel has been trying to arrange for his extradition since then.

In 1995, Ben-Ivgi and Arbel Aloni, a friend, were convicted of murdering Roth in January 1994, when both perpetrators were just 14 years old. The case shocked Israel, both because of the young age of the defendants and the senselessness of the crime - Ben-Ivgi and Aloni, whose names were not made public at the time due to their age, described their actions as a random act.

After their arrests, the suspects told investigators they had hailed Roth’s taxi in the wealthy Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya Pituah at random, and during the ride either Ben-Ivgi or Aloni pumped six bullets from a stolen pistol into the back of the taxi driver, killing him instantly.

Both were sentenced to 16 years in prison. The Supreme Court turned down an appeal against the severity of the sentence.

Their names were made public in 1998, after they were arrested for robbing one grocery store and attempting a second robbery during their first prison leave. Their sentences were extended by five years after their conviction in these incidents.

It was after the Supreme Court overturned prison authorities’ decision to suspend Ben-Ivgi’s furlough privileges that he fled the country. At that point he had been in prison for 10 years and four and a half months.

Israel requested his extradition, although there is no extradition treaty between the two states. An Argentinian court ruled that Ben-Ivgi could only be extradited to Israel on condition that he only serve a maximum of five years after his return - for the supermarket robbery, which was committed after he became an adult.

Because the age of criminal responsibility in Argentina is 16, and additionally because escape from custody is not an extraditable offense in the country, Argenina agreed only to extradite Ben-Ivgi in connection to the robbery conviction.

Additional delays ensued as the case made its way through the courts in Argentina. Ben-Ivgi appealed to the Supreme Court against his extradition, while Israel appealed the decision to only allow his extradition for the lesser offense of robbery.

In 2009, before the Argentinian Supreme Court ruled on the case, Ben-Ivgi escaped from house arrest. About a year later he was arrested again, for other offenses committed in Argentina – document forgery and refusing to obey a public official. He recently completed his three-and-a-half-year sentence for these offenses.

The extradition proceedings were renewed after the 2009 arrest. In May 2012 Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled to uphold the lower court’s decision to extradite Ben-Ivgi for the robbery and attempted robbery only.

After Ben-Ivgi’s return to Israel, prosecutors are expected to fight for him to serve the full five years of the sentence, minus one month time served while awaiting extradition in Argentina.

Ben-Ivgi’s attorney, Sassi Gez, is expected to argue that the entire length of time he spent under arrest in Argentina should be subtracted from the sentence. The state, in turn, is expected to say that Ben-Ivgi’s incarceration in Argentina was for crimes committed there, not offenses committed in Israel.

Ben-Ivgi has an Israeli wife, and they had a daughter together. Aloni, his partner in Roth’s murder and the supermarket robbery years later, married a college student who visited him in prison to interviewed him. His request for his sentence to be shortened by one-third was rejected.

“I know what I did was really horrible, it really is terrible, but you know that life is stronger than a lot of other things,” Ben-Ivgi said in an interview to Israel Channel 2 television on Tuesday.

Speaking about his escape to Argentina in 2004, he said, “I just wanted to live. I knew that in Israel I wouldn’t get a chance to have a normal life. I waited for the amount of time I thought I deserved to be punished for what I did, and then I escaped. It’s not true I didn’t take responsibility. I sat in jail in Israel for almost 11 years until I escaped. I could have escaped much earlier, but I didn’t. Of course what I did isn’t easy, I understand that especially today, now that I’m a father. So I take full responsibility for what I did. I was sentenced at the age of 14 to 16 years in prison. I was sentenced to more years than my age. And I’m not saying I don’t deserve it, I agree that I deserve it, but I also deserve some kind of chance. It’s been 20 years since it happened and you know, terrorists with blood on their hands have been let out already.”

Ben-Ivgi denied having committed the robberies and said in the interview: “I murdered, but I didn’t rob.” He said he’s tried several times to contact the Roth family to ask for forgiveness. “I want to say so they’ll know, they’ll hear, that what I did was the act of a stupid kid, a mistake that ended in a total tragedy. I was a 14-year-old kid, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not a monster, I’m a human being who made a terrible mistake and I’m asking for a second chance.”