Top Israeli Singer Margalit Tzan'ani Arrested for Alleged Blackmail, Link to Crime Ring

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

Popular Israeli singer Margalit Tzan'ani was arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly engaging in extortion and blackmail.

Tzan'ani allegedly employed blackmail - using associates of convicted criminal Amir Mullner - to collect debts. She is currently being interrogated at the Economic Crime Prevention Unit in Lod.

Margalit Tzan'ani, center, talking to journalists at a social protest in Be'er Sheva, August 2011.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Tzan'ani, known by her nickname Margol, is one of Israel's most loved and famous singers; she was a judge on the Israeli version of American Idol, "A Star is Born," for five of its nine seasons.

Police arrested and searched the houses of people allegedly linked to Mullner's crime organization, over suspicions that they committed various acts of blackmail on behalf of the singer. Police confiscated documents and assets connected to the incident, and the suspects are currently being interrogated.

This afternoon, the police will request to extend the custody of some of the suspects.

Mullner's lawyer on Tuesday morning denied that there was a link between his client and Tzan'ani.

"I have never heard of connections between Mullner and the singer in question," he said. "My client has not even contacted me [with regards to the allegations]."

Tzan'ani recently made headlines when she criticized the social protest movement that has been sweeping Israel throughout the summer.

In a bid to make amends for her comments, which drew a furious response across Israel, she performed last weekend at a Be'er Sheva protest attended by 20,000 people.

"I was never against the protest," she told demonstrators. "I come from such places in the periphery. I came to support the people here...

The Economic Crime Prevention Unit has been carrying out extensive investigations into Mullner's crime organization over the past week. Last week four people linked to Mullner were arrested on suspicion of striking a man over a parking dispute.

Mullner was released last month after serving a prison sentence of one year and nine months for connections with crimes and weapon possession. He was arrested alongside his associates after they were caught hiding a pistol, silencer and bullets in a water tank in the backyard of a house in Ramat Gan. It later emerged that these arrests were part of a broader range of police investigations into the organization.