Meir Abergil - Archive / Daniel Bar-On - 21082011
Meir Abergil in court in 2008. Photo by Archive / Daniel Bar-On
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Lawyers for reputed crime figure Meir Abergil have struck an agreement with American authorities that, if approved by California court, will allow their client to return to Israel a free man after having spent about three years in Israeli and American prisons.

Intensive contacts have been underway in recent months over plea agreements for Meir and Yitzhak Abergil, who along with accomplices were charged with varying offenses, including ordering a murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering. The indictments against the defendants are based on a range of material, including wiretap evidence, and relate to allegations in four separate incidents involving ordering the murder of Israeli drug dealer Sami Atias in Los Angeles, laundering money in the U.S. from the Trade Bank of Israel, extortion by threat of Israeli business people and trade in the drug Ecstasy.

It is thought that the American authorities have had trouble building a case against Meir Abergil, whose alleged role is relatively small. In recent months, American officials have applied heavy pressure on Gabi Ben Haroush of the so-called “Jerusalem Gang” to turn state’s witness. He was allegedly involved in criminal activity in the United States with the Abergil brothers. Similar pressure was applied on Asi Vaknin, a former co-owner of a modeling agency, who was detained but released, but the two adamantly refused to testify against the Abergils, saying the allegations against the brothers were without foundation.

Under such circumstances, the U.S. authorities decided not to take their chances at trial and arrive at plea bargains, the first of which is expected to be approved in the case of Meir Abergil. It is not clear whether a plea can also be struck with Yitzhak Abergil, the alleged head of an organized crime organization in the United States, against whom the Americans are seeking a ten-year jail sentence. If there is no plea bargain, the trial of the defendants is expected to begin within months.