Hit-and-run suspect incriminates underworld kingpin in testimony to jailhouse informant
Ever since his arrest three months ago for alleged involvement in the hit-and-run killing of Meital Aharonson in Tel Aviv, Shai Simon has been held in a special protected cell, due to intelligence information that he was on an underworld hit list for fear of incriminating Shalom Yemini. The two were in the car together at the time of the accident, and Yemini, who is also under arrest, is accused of being the driver.
Now, Haaretz has obtained the testimony Simon gave to a police informant planted in his cell during the first 48 hours after his arrest last October.
At first, Simon refused to talk about the accident. Later, however, he opened up, and when the informant asked who drove the car, he immediately responded, "not me."
However Simon refused to say who was driving, and when pressed by the informant, retreated into silence. For the next 24 hours, during which a second informant was also put into the cell, he never mentioned the accident.
The following evening, however, upon returning from a session with police interrogators, he suddenly opened up. "I was at a birthday party for a friend at the [Tel Aviv] port," he said. "After we left there it was just me, Vic [Lavi] and Shalom [Yemini]. All three of us were drunk ... I entered the car, left the port and took a right."
"Who was driving, you?" the informant asked, and Simon said "yes."
It was shortly after this, police believe, that Simon and Yemini switched places, without leaving the car.
As they were driving, Simon told the informant, he suddenly saw that Lavi - who did not get into the car with them at the port - had left his cell phone in the vehicle. He informed Yemini, who told him not to worry. The informant interrupted to ask where this happened, and Simon responded: "I don't remember. He [Yemini] was driving; I don't know where he turned."
Then Simon described the run-up to the accident itself: "We reached Ibn Gvirol [St.], we were going fast. He [Yemini] thought this was the way home. We reached Ibn Gvirol, drove for a minute, a minute and a half, two minutes and reached this intersection. Two girls..."
At this point, Simon was cut off by the informant, who was speaking with someone in the next cell. After about 10 minutes, however, he continued: "When we saw this, it was already too late. In truth, I only saw one [girl]. People were yelling at him [Yemini] 'stop, stop!'"
Later, Simon's attorney claimed that Simon himself had yelled at Yemini to slow down after spotting Aharonson, though Simon did not tell the informant this. The second woman, Mali Yazdi, was seriously injured in the accident.
After the accident, Simon told the informant, Yemini "told me that if one word of this slips your mouth, you don't have a family. I'll slaughter you."
The informant asked whether Yemini had then told Simon to take over as driver, and Simon said yes. "I entered a parking lot, walked for eight or 10 minutes like a crazy man. Then I was scared I hadn't cleaned up well enough." According to the indictment, Yemini ordered Simon to clean up any evidence of the hit-and-run. "I cleaned a second time and closed the car," Simon continued. "I wanted a taxi, there were no taxis." Finally, however, he found a taxi and went home.
"My wife knows everything about me, but I didn't tell her [about this]," he added. "I didn't tell anyone."
The next morning, he said, he received a threatening call from someone who told him, "I've been watching your son's kindergarten. Take care." He tried to call Yemini, but got no answer. The following day, he was arrested.
The arrest was made possible by testimony from eyewitnesses who were out and about despite the late hour - the accident occurred at 3:20 A.M. The witnesses described the car and even gave the police its license plate number.