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The Tel Aviv District Court convicted nine men yesterday of organized crime activities, including extortion and other crimes.

The defendants - six from Tira, three from Kfar Sava and three companies they own - were convicted among other things for running a crime organization, membership in a crime organization, carrying arms, deliberate injury to persons, and money laundering.

The organization distributed fictitious invoices in the sum of some NIS 84 million, provided black market loans, and committed violence against debtors.

First verdict under 2003 law

The defendants' conviction is the first verdict to analyze the law against organized crime, enacted in 2003. Previous verdicts were reached as part of plea bargains, and did not refer directly to the law.

The law against organized crime enabled prosecutors to indict organized crime leaders even if they did not carry out the crimes themselves. The law stipulates that penalties for organized crime activities would be considerably higher than those given perpetrators of similar crimes, who are not part of an organization.

One of the prosecutors, Maayan Ben Ari, told Haaretz that prior to the law, the prosecution would deal with the criminal offenses separately from the economic ones. The law has enabled the prosecution to present the court with one case, thus providing a full picture of the defendants' criminal activity.