mobster - Moti Kimche - April 10 2011
Asi Vaknin in 2009. Photo by Moti Kimche
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U.S. authorities arrested reputed Israeli mobster Asi Vaknin in Mexico yesterday, and put him on a flight to the United States, where he is wanted. According to the indictment against Israeli mobsters Meir and Yitzhak Abergil, Vaknin had been threatened and blackmailed.

Asi Vaknin is the brother of Hai Vaknin, who reached a plea bargain with American authorities to testify in court against the Abergils. The Abergil brothers are due to be tried in the United States in six months.

American authorities informed the Israeli police about Vaknin's arrest yesterday. Law enforcement sources in Israel believe U.S. prosecutors are now trying to pressure Asi Vaknin into testifying against the Abergil brothers and their co-defendants.

In the case against the Abergils and their partners, U.S. prosecutors have charged them with loaning money to American businessmen and then subjecting them to extortion.

Other charges against the brothers include the contract killing of Israeli drug kingpin Sami Atias in Los Angeles, money laundering and drug trafficking.

Asi Vaknin's arrest comes two months after the surprising arrest of Gabi Ben Harosh, who headed the so-called Jerusalem Gang. He was convicted of minor crimes in a plea bargain, and sentenced to community service.

Ben Harosh was arrested in Los Angeles with his wife Sima, suspected of violating immigration regulations. In this case too, it is believed that the U.S. authorities are trying to pressure Ben Harosh into testifying against his former associates, the Abergil brothers.

It is also believed that the Abergils and Ben Harosh tried to use the Vaknin brothers to launder money embezzled from Commerce Bank.