Text size

In recent weeks, some of the leading organized crime figures in Israel have spent considerable time in police interrogation rooms, as police sought to prevent an attempt on the life of mobster Francois Abutbul, who was released recently after serving 22 months for assaulting his wife.

Two weeks ago, police arrested alleged mobsters Rico Shirazi and Shalom Domrani, on suspicion of planning an hit on Abutbul. Abutbul himself and Zayad Jarushi were promptly arrested a few days later, on suspicion of planning to assassinate Shirazi.

Soon afterward, Yousef Hariri, the head of the Hariri family of northern Israel, was also arrested on suspicion of planning to assist Shirazi in his plan. He was released within a few hours.

Police believe the resurgent conflicts center on attempts to take over Abutbul's criminal and business activity in the Netanya area. Most of those detained were later banned from the city.

Police fear that assassinations could spark a bitter gang war between the various groups, which would also endanger innocent lives, and see the preventative arrests as a way of reminding mobsters police are aware of their plans and would charge them if an assassination does take place.

The failure of the police and prosecution to dismantle the Abergil crime syndicate - suspected of being behind today's assassination of Rami Amira - was highlighted two years ago by former senior police official Simon Perry.

Perry has since retired and has gone on to serve as deputy internal security attache to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Two years ago, Perry filed a complaint with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, describing how ego wars among the top brass of police, especially the intelligence and investigations department, had caused a series of failures delaying the extradition of Meir and Yitzhak Abergil.

Perry also slammed the prosecution, saying it had missed several opportunities to obtain valuable evidence against members of the Abergil syndicate.

He specifically noted the prosecution's refusal to ease the punishment of Etti Alon, the woman behind embezzlement at the Trade Bank, which could have allowed for the incrimination of the syndicate's associates.

Sources close to Perry told Haaretz yesterday that the murder of Amira provided still more proof that although the two brothers were extradited and awaiting trial, their organization has been operating unhindered.

The sources added that because the authorities concentrated on extraditing the Abergil brothers, they missed several opportunities to apprehend and charge other members of the brothers' syndicate, including some involved in criminal incidents that claimed innocent victims.

They said Amira could also have been tried.