Israeli crime boss Shalom Domrani
Israeli crime boss Shalom Domrani. Photo by Moti Kimche
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The police arrested crime boss Shalom Domrani Saturday night on suspicion of several cases of extortion in the Negev city of Netivot.

Domrani was arrested along with six other purported members of his organization. One of the six suspects was injured in a recent car bombing in Ashkelon and was arrested in his hospital bed at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center. Police say Domrani is head of a crime family operating mainly in the south of Israel. His arrest comes against the backdrop of two cars being blown up in Ashkelon over the past two weeks.

The arrests were made by Unit 433, in charge of investigating major crimes and corruption, in cooperation with the southern district, following an undercover investigation in Netivot. Following the arrests, the suspects’ homes were searched and items
were seized.

In addition to suspicions that Domrani was extorting businesspeople, police allege that in the weeks preceding the municipal elections in Netivot, Domrani’s men threatened Yaakov Ifargan, a prominent rabbi in the city, to support Mayor Yehiel Zohar. Ifargan had reportedly been on the outs for several years after Zohar refused to grant him building permits for his institutions. Some of Ifargan’s associates transferred their support to Zohar but Ifargan himself refused, the source said.

“On the night of the elections, when Zohar was celebrating his victory, Domrani’s men were seen there. A few days before the elections, there were threats against Rabbi Yoram Abergel, who is a Zohar supporter, and Domrani’s men guarded him,” the source said.

In one of the two car bombings in Ashkelon, Domrani’s close friend Jacky Benita was killed, and two of Domrani’s men were seriously injured. The current arrest is unconnected to the car bombings in Ashkelon, but the police intend to include these incidents in their current probe.

Sources close to Domrani say the purpose of the arrest was to give the public the feeling that something is being done, after a car belonging to a prosecutor was blown up Thursday night in Tel Aviv.

Domrani’s attorney, Moshe Sherman, denied the allegations. “The police arrested Shalom Domrani so they could give people the feeling that they were doing something," Sherman said, "and so [Public Security] Minister [Yitzhak] Aharonovitch could say on live television that a few moments ago the head of a crime organization was arrested in Israel. The arrest is nothing but public relations.”

Sherman was referring to the fact that Aharonovitch had announced Domrani’s arrest from the Channel 2 News studio before the police had made an official statement and before it was known whether all the suspects had been taken into custody.