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Police suspect gray-market loan sharks of threatening the life of Yochai Peleg, the controlling shareholder of the company which ran the Prime Gan Oranim banquet hall - before he fled the country last week. The Tel Aviv police are also investigating whether these same underworld figures were behind the attack on Keshet CEO Avi Nir two months ago in Tel Aviv.

Among the questions being considered is whether Peleg owed large sums of money to these underworld figures, which gave them a serious interest in the continued operation of Gan Oranim. Keshet had earlier run an expose of the hall which showed it in an extremely negative light.

Over the weekend, elements identified with one of the organized crime families in the center of the country arrived at the hall and looted it, removing valuables and equipment after it became known that Peleg had fled the country, leaving huge debts and dozens of customers who had already paid large advances on their events. Underworld members came with trucks Friday morning and took everything they could, said one of the people who had come to find Peleg. The man had paid tens of thousands of shekels in advance for his son's bar mitzva next month.

A number of couples who had given Peleg checks as an advance on their weddings complained to police they had received threats from gray-market loan sharks who now have the checks, demanding the money from the couples. The police declined to comment, saying they are still investigating.